Taxi, a film by dissident Iranian director, Jafar Panahi, has won the Golden Bear, the Berlin Film Festival's top prize. Panahi, beat off competition from 19 films, many of which were much higher-profile, to gain top honours, at its world debut at the Berlin Film Festival. Taxi is the third film he has made since the government, in his native Iran, banned him from film-making as well as travel. 

The understated film is really a profound look at the role of film-making in Iran, under the whimsical veil of naturalistic dialogue. It was filmed covertly by a dashboard camera, as the director drove a taxi and spoke to his 'passengers'. 

The jury's decision to honour Panahi, who has been described as the "Iranian Woody Allen", is another indication of the Berlinale's status as the most politically-driven of the world's main film festivals. "Instead of allowing his spirit to be crushed and giving up, instead of allowing himself to be filled with anger and frustration, Jafar Panahi created a love letter to cinema," said Darren Aronofsky, jury president. "His film is filled with love for his art, his community, his country and his audience."

Panahi was not present at the awards ceremony for obvious reasons and his award was picked up by one of the film's young female stars, who broke down on stage saying she was "too moved" to talk.

The events in Paris last month have perhaps contributed a new level of poignancy to Panahi's film, and now, his victory. The award was been hailed by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in a statement as: "an important sign for the freedom of art."

On an Instagram account said to be Panahi's, Iranian journalists at a post-awards news conference said he had posted a message in Farsi saying: "This is an important artistic and political acknowledgment of the film that makes me very proud."

Banned Iranian director Panahi's 'Taxi' wins Berlin's Golden Bear

Banned Iranian director Panahi's 'Taxi' wins Berlin's Golden Bear