Mania Akbari is an Iranian filmmaker and artist, whose works explore women's rights, marriage, sexual identity, disease , embodiment, body and trauma, body image, body politic and histories of personal, social, and political trauma. Her style, in contrast to the long tradition of melodrama in Iranian cinema, is rooted in the visual arts and autobiography. Because of the taboo themes openly discussed in her films and her opposition to censorship, she is considered one of the most controversial filmmakers in Iran.
Her artistic activities, as a painter, started in 1991 when she took part in various exhibitions in Iran, as well as abroad. She was later exposed to cinema, working as a cinematographer and assistant director on documentary films by female Iranian filmmaker Mahvash Sheikholeslami. Akbari directed her debut film, a short documentary called Crystal. In 2004, she wrote, acted in and directed her first feature-length film,“20 Fingers”, which won best film in the Venice Film Festival's Digital Cinema section. In 2007, Akbari was diagnosed with breast cancer, her struggle with the disease becoming one of the key themes of her films and art works. From 2007 to 2010, Akbari worked on numerous photography-based works that were featured in various galleries around the world, while she kept making documentary and fiction films until 2011. Since settling in London, various international retrospectives of Akbari's films have drawn attention to her cinema, among which retrospectives at the BFI, the Oldenburg International Film Festival and the Danish Film Institute are the most notable.
Her films have screened at festivals around the world and have received numerous awards including German Independence Honorary Award, Oldenberg (2014), Nantes Special Public Award Best Film (2007) and Best Director and Best film at Kerala Film Festival (2007), Best Film and Best Actress, Barcelona Film Festival (2007). Akbari was exiled from Iran and currently lives and works in London, a theme addressed in “Life May Be” (2014), co-directed with Mark Cousins. This film was released at Karlovy Vary Film Festival and was nominated for Best Documentary at Edinburgh International Film Festival (2014) and Asia Pacific Film Festival (2014). Akbari’s latest film “A Moon For My Father”, made in collaboration with British artist Douglas White, premiered at CPH:DOX where it won the NEW:VISION Award 2019. The film also received a FIPRESCI International Crit- ics Award at the Flying Broom Festival, Ankara.