Born in Tehran in 1939, Dariush Mehrjui is regarded as an icon of Iranian New Wave cinema. In the early 1960s, Mehrjui moved to the United States and entered the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), graduating in 1964 with a degree in philosophy.
Upon returning to Iran in 1965, Mehrjui embarked on his filmmaking career, making his debut with Diamond 33 (1966). His second feature film, Cow (1969), the story of a villager and his nearly mythical attachment to his cow, brought him national and international recognition. The film was smuggled out of Iran and submitted to the Venice Film Festival, where, without programming or subtitles, it became the largest event of the 1971 festival, marking a turning point in the history of Iranian cinema.
Mehrjui's 1977 film The Cycle won the 1978 Fédération Internationale de la Presse Cinématographique Prize at the Berlin Film Festival. He continued to produce films that highlight and play on Iran’s social stratification through the 1980s and 1990s, but it was only with Leila (1996) that Mehrjui’s films began to receive wide release in the West.