Your debut film „A Moment, Freedom“ tells the story of several refugees who, in search of freedom, flee from their home country Iran. The stories are based on actual occurrences.
What does freedom mean to you?
Freedom is for me the main ingredient of all human rights. It’s a given right and people should not have to fight for it. But unfortunately the people’s freedom is severely violated in a lot of parts of our world. And as a filmmaker I see one of my duties to fight against these violations with my work by creating an awareness about this matter.
The stories of these refugees are based on actual occurrences. How many interviews with refugees did you conduct beforehand and to what extent did these conversations change your view of the film that you were going to shoot? Did one of the stories touch you in particular?
It was a very long writing process that started in the year 2000. In the last years I did about 7 research journeys to Turkey in order to see what has changed there. I made a lot of interviews with refugees and NGOs during the last years in order to make a film that is universal and not dated. One of the stories is based on the story of my siblings and of course this story is the most touching for me. But even the parts that are based on my own or my families experience are of course changed here and there for dramaturgical needs. My goal was not to tell my story, but 3 exemplary stories about people in search of freedom no matter where they are or from where they come. On the one hand I was interested in how these different people, young and old, deal with this extreme situation, on the other hand I wanted to create an hommage to all the people who went trough a lot of sufferings and even death for a glipmse of freedom.
Your film also contains tragicomical snapshots of the individual refugee stories. What meaning do these humorous interspersions have?
For me the proximity of tragic and humorous elements is extremely important. I regard humour as the best survival technique, and if you don’t keep at least a minimum of your humour when you are in such extreme situations as these refugees, you will be destroyed by the brutality of your own situation like one of the characters in the film and a lot of people I know in real life. After all, there isn’t a great deal more you can hold on to.
Your film has an ensemble cast. Did this cause any special situations during the shooting?
When you decide to make an ensemble movie you must be aware of the fact that you can not tell every story very detailed. You must find out what the key sceenes of each story is and then try to realize these few scenes in the best and most efficient way. But the good thing with an ensemble piece is that you can tell a bigger and broader story that is more universal. That’s why I choosed this form of storytelling. I talked a lot with the actors about the motivation of the characters and the interesting thing was that all of the actors where very close to the topic of the film. Some were refugees themselves or the children of immigrants or refugees. So the film was already a part of all our lifes and we all saw it as a manifest of resistance and an hommage to the struggles of all the millions of refugees around the world.
During the shooting I had to ballance my attention so that no actor felt left alone. This was specialy difficult in the scenes with the children, because they needed permanent attention.
All the actors are very convincing. How did you proceed with the casting? Did you also cast nonprofessional actors? And what was the casting of the children like?
We spent over a year and a half casting the film, in Berlin and then in Stockholm, later in London, Paris, Vienna, and then in Leipzig and Frankfurt. Things were made harder by the requirements we had: we wanted Persian actors who spoke Farsi without any accent, some of them had to be in their early 20s, and of course above all they had to be good actors. In addition of that we needed three children aged between five and seven who also spoke Farsi without any accent. On top of that, the people had to be prepared to work on a film that criticises the regime. That automatically excluded anyone who wanted to go back to Iran. In the end we had a mix of professional and first time actors. Some of the actors changed their names for security reasons. The most difficult thing was to direct them in a way that they appear for the audience equal.
Your last film was a touching and inspiring long-term documentation of your own family. To what extent did this documentary experience help you with your first fiction feature?
My last documentary « Exile Family Movie » was about the life of my family in the last 15 years in Europe and USA. The work on that film helped me understand the inner feelings of refugees during their lives in exile. In my first feature film „For a moment, freedom“ I wanted to make a film that takes place in between the countries that the refugees are from or want to go. I wanted to show what people go through to come to Europe in order to make clear that they surely have no choice. So in a chronological sense you could say that in the life of a refugee the story of the feature film happens before the story of the documentary.
What does it mean to you that your film is being presented at international film festivals?
Of course it’s great when your film is selected for good international festivals and you get the feeling that your movie is artistically respected. Festivals and the promotion you get there help to raise the attention for the films and for political films like „For a moment, freedom“ that have besides their artistical goals also the goal to change the consiounce of at least some people, it’s very important to be seen by a wide audience.
Why did you choose to become a director?
I wanted to make people laugh and cry and create at least some moments that have a special meening to some people out there. I also see my humanistic films as a weapon against an unsocial and cold world.
Which directors serve as your role models?
There are a lot of directors and movies that I admire, specialy those who are trying to reach the borders of filmmaking. Maybe that’s the reason why my favourite directors are Jean Luc Godard, Lars von Trier and John Cassavates but also Woody Allen.
Since Austria does only play a minor part in your film, was it difficult to get financial funds in Austria?
I worked on the screenplay for more than 7 years and my aim was to have a very good script that cannot be rejected. With the support of two renowned production companies like Wega-Film and Les Films du Losange and a professional team we had finaly such a packet that convinced the filmfonds and the commition editors of the tv stations.
Are you already working on a new project?
While I’m working on my next feature film script I want to finish a longterm-documentary about the life of some inhabitants of a women’s shelter house, where I worked for one year in 2001. I’m also open to direct a good screenplay that might find the way to me and reflects my understanding of what films I want to make. And that are films that matters and touch the audience emotionaly and intelectualy.