A creative drive

Are there specific reasons why taxi journeys provide fertile ground for authors’ creativity?

Hana Saeidi, left, holds up the Golden Bear for the movie Taxi, which she accepted on behalf of Iranian director Jafar Panahi, next to the American director Darren Aronofsky, at the annual Berlin International Film Festival. Michael Kappeler / EPA
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Most of us have had some interesting and diverting conversations with taxi drivers, which helps explain why taxis are often the settings for books and films. Most recently, Iranian director Jafar Panahi’s movie, Taxi, won the Golden Bear prize at the Berlin International Film Festival. The movie uses conversations between a taxi driver – Mr Panahi – and his passengers in a bid to capture the soul of Iran.

It joins a rich cultural history. Sherief Elkatsha’s documentary film, Cairo Drive, which debuted at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival in 2013, took viewers on a noisy journey through the city’s chaotic streets. Likewise, Khaled Al Khamissi’s Taxi is a best-selling book of fictional monologues with Cairo’s taxi drivers.

But what makes taxis such fertile creative terrain? Is it something to do with them being both public and private spaces or just the allure of being able to talk frankly to a stranger?