Makhmalbaf , 56, visited Israel about two weeks ago as a guest of the International Jerusalem Film Festival, courageously promoting a cultural dialogue between the two people, Iranians and Israelis.
"I am proud to have paved the way for Iranian cinema in Israel," he told BBC Persian. "Boycotting and writing statements does not solve anything. It only leads to war."
Mohsen Makhmalbaf is the most senior Iranian to officially visit Israel. During his visit, he held a meeting with journalists and film critics in Jerusalem and told them he was the first Iranian director to allow a commercial screening of his film in Israel. he added that he was breaking a taboo and hoped others would follow in his footsteps.
"We have to get to know each other through art, literature and cinema, so we can become friends and end the hostility. That's the reason I filmed my latest movie, 'The Gardener,' in Israel. I hope Israeli filmmakers will be able to shoot films in Iran," he said.
In a candid interview to Yedioth Ahronoth on the eve of his arrival in Israel, the veteran director expressed his hope for peace and a change in his homeland, and praised Israel and the Israelis.
"In a previous secret visit here, I looked at the faces of young Israelis and saw the faces of my children and their friends," he said. "I thought I was coming to a military country but discovered a democracy instead."
The Iranian authorities, however, were quick to respond to the positive public and media buzz created by the Israel visit. The official Iranian cinema association declared a full boycott on all of the films made by Makhmalbaf, who left the Islamic Republic in 2005 after the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president.
The cinema organization ordered all museums and cinema to erase every single memory of the famous director and boycott him forever.
Senior Iranian officials referred to Makhmalbaf as a "rootless and soulless man" following his visit to Israel. The official Iranian news agency called him a "traitor."
But while some Iranian academics and artists condemned Makhmalbaf over his visit to Israel, a group of journalists and artists published an open letter praising him for his courage.