Dariush Mehrjui, the pioneering Iranian director behind films such as “The Cow” and “The Pear Tree,” has reportedly been murdered at the age of 83. The news was broken by Iranian state media outlet IRNA, which indicated that Mehrjui and his wife Vahideh Mohammadifar were discovered at their home with neck wounds indicating that they had been stabbed to death.
Born in Iran in 1939, Mehrjui rose to prominence in the 1960s as a leading contributor to the Iranian New Wave filmmaking movement. His 1969 film “The Cow,” which depicts an Iranian man’s alienation from society when the pregnant cow that serves as his sole possession is killed, became an international sensation after screening at the Venice International Film Festival. He remained a beloved presence on the international festival circuit throughout his life, earning acclaim for films such as 1998’s “The Pear Tree” and 2002’s “To Stay Alive.” His naturalistic films offered nuanced depictions of human discontent, often drawing comparisons to great Italian neorealist directors like Roberto Rossellini and Vittorio De Sica.
Like many prominent Iranian filmmakers, Mehrjui struggled with state censorship throughout his life and publicly bristled with the Iranian government’s hostility towards cinema. He attracted attention in 2022 for posting a video criticizing the regime’s opposition to his final film, “A Minor.” His wife Vahideh Mohammadifar had attracted attention in recent days for social media posts in which she expressed concern for their safety.