Marva Nabili was born in Iran where she studied painting at the University of Decorative Arts in Tehran. She became involved with the production of a film that marked the formation of "New Wave’ in Iranian cinema: she played the lead in Fereydoon Rahnama’s Siavash in Persepolis.
This experience drew Nabili to London and New York to study filmmaking where she received her undergraduate and graduate degrees in cinema. She wrote and directed a number of films, notably A Trance, Self-Portrait and Nanette in Vermont.
Nabili returned to Iran to write and direct an eight-hour television series based on classic Persian fairy tales. In the same yer she wrote and directed her first feature film, The Sealed Soil, the story of an eighteen-year-old peasant woman caught in a transitional period between girlhood and womanhood and the struggle between cultural traditions and modernization confronting her village life.