DIFF meets Morteza Farshbaf

Sun Oct 21,2012

DIFF welcomes Morteza Farshbaf to Dubai this week for Film Buzz’s “Focus on Iran” programme at The Pavilion, Downtown where audiences will be introduced to his debut feature film Mourning. A protégé of acclaimed Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami, Farshbaf is most defiantly one to watch in the new wave talent emerging from Iran. 

What inspired you to become a filmmaker?

Farshbaf:  From a child I always loved the movies, the whole experience from buying the tickets to sitting in the theatre and being in this environment was always so enjoyable for me. When I screened my film for the first time at The Busan International Film Festival in a cinema of 500 people and my name came up on the big screen as the director the miracle had happened, it was amazing.

You have made 5 short films and Mourning is your first feature film, can you tell us about the process?

Farshbaf:  At first I thought it would be really hard making a full feature, but the process is the same you just have to think bigger! The plan is the same you are delivering 90 minutes rather than 15 and now when I think of an idea I automatically think how this would work as a full-length feature.  To begin with I was extremely nervous, Abbas Kiarostami had told me to work on a feature when I was thinking of doing another short and I’d worried if I could achieve it. But it’s a story, and characters and the way you tell the story is the same process.

Mourning initially emerged as a project of film workshops run by Abbas Kiarostami, what can you tell us about his influence on you as a filmmaker?

Farshbaf:  I owe Kiarostami a lot, he gave me courage and made me believe that it’s easier than it looks and not to be apprehensive but to go for it.  I studied Film from the University of Art in Tehran and I focused on the forms and theories and everything seemed so complex that it was daunting to make a film as a young graduate. When I attended a Kiarostami workshop, he stripped all of this away and told me to get rid of all the books and focus on making films rather than watching and reading about them. He pushed me to get a camera and make my own films, learn about filmmaking by actually getting out there, experiencing all the challenges and finding my own voice and personality – this helped a lot. He said it didn’t matter what quality it was in the beginning just show him that we were out there making films and learning, getting practice and experiencing as much as we could.  

You have been titled as a real filmmaker to watch, do you feel a level of responsibility to deliver?

Farshbaf:  Anyone who works in the media who has a chance to influence audiences has a responsibility. Having the power to change, develop or encourage someone’s opinion can be dangerous if you are influencing people in a negative way. I take my responsibilities seriously and I am constantly thinking that I have to work harder to be a better person. I want to explain my ideas and express myself the right way. Our films are nothing without the audiences and the dialogue and relationship your film has with your audiences is crucial and so it’s my responsibility to be a stronger filmmaker. 

With A Separation winning the Oscar for Best Foreign Language earlier this year, did this help you to promote your film to new audiences?

Farshbaf:  Yes, it helped me and other filmmakers a lot in Iran.  It gave us hope after the House of Cinema in Tehran that promotes Iranian-made films was closed down and this Oscar gave encouragement to all those who were working in film. It showed that if you concentrate on your work then you can succeed,  Asghar Farhadi is one of the most unique people in Tehran because he has worked tirelessly for years to make this film. Following the win for A separation it meant I could show my film in cinemas around the world, on the posters it said another film from the new wave of Iranian cinema and so it was great it put a spotlight on my film - it helped a lot and I thanked him.

Iranian film makers are producing work that is receiving great critical acclaim and has been triumphant on the international film festival circuit this year. How important are festivals?

Farshbaf:  Hugely, I am extremely proud of Iranian cinema and when I travel with my film, I am trying to help project a positive image and export the rich and diverse stories from Iran to show our communities, cultures and traditions from Iran to the rest of the world. Festivals give us the opportunity to share our work with the rest of the world; this gives us the confidence to continue to work on new projects. 

What future features are you working on?

Farshbaf:  I am currently working on a feature film called Avalanche, its set in the mountains of Iran and explores the relationship between a husband and wife. I hope to screen it next summer.  

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