Naderi developed his knowledge of cinema by watching films at the theater where he worked as a boy, reading film criticism, and making relationships with leading film critics. He began his career with still photography for some notable Iranian features. In the 1970s, Naderi turned to directing, and made some of the most important features of the New Iranian Cinema. In 1971, his directorial debut, Goodbye Friend was released in Iran. Mr. Naderi first came into the international spotlight with films that are now known as cinema classics, The Runner (1985), and Water, Wind, Dust (1989). The Runner is considered by many critics to be one of the most influential films of the past quarter century. After a number of his films were banned by the Iranian government, Mr. Naderi left the country. Expatriating to New York, Mr. Naderi continued to produce new work. He was named a Rockefeller Film and Video fellow in 1997, and has served as an artist in residence and instructor at Columbia University, the University of Las Vegas, and New York's School of Visual Arts. His U.S. films have premiered at the Film Society of Lincoln Center/MOMA's New Films New Director's series, the Venice, Cannes, Sundance and Tribeca Film Festivals. His last feature, Sound Barrier (2005) won the prestigious Roberto Rossellini Prize at the Rome Film Festival.
Due to smaller distribution and advertising budgets, Mr. Naderi's films are not as well known as most Hollywood films. Despite that and the lack of recognizable actors in most of his films, his work tends to find distribution (mainly in Europe and Japan), and he has earned a great deal of critical acclaim. Mr. Naderi’s films and photography are also frequently the subject of retrospectives at major festivals and museums throughout the world. Lincoln Center in New York, the city that has been his home for the past 20 years, offered a complete retrospective of his work in 2001, as did the International Museum of Cinema in Turin, Italy in 2006. The most recent retrospective of his work was screened at the Pusan International Film Festival, the largest in Asia. Mr. Naderi has served as a jury member of international film festivals for over a decade.