Sedma umjetnost: Razgovor sa Rouzbehom Rashidijem

Razgovorala: Ajla Džagadurov


5. aprila u Kinu Metting Point prikazan je film Phantom Islands, film osnivača Experimental Film Society-a, kao zasebnog ‘novog filmskog kluba’, novog pokreta u svjetskoj kinematografiji. Zahvaljujemo se gospodinu Rouzbehu na razgovoru, također i Zulfikaru Filandri na ukazanoj prilici. Sa gospodinom Rouzbehom smo razgovarali o njegovom najnovijem filmu, njegovim filmovima uopće, iranskoj kinematografiji, te o odnosu prema publici koji razvija on lično, ali i sam EFS. Za vrijeme projekcije njegovog filma veći dio publike napustio je kino, a oni koji su bili dovoljno ‘hrabri’ mogli su prisustvovati izvrsnom Q&A-u, i na taj način učestvovati u određenom eksperimentu koji Rouzbeh provodi nad svojom publikom, publikom koju godinama „terorizira“, inspiriše, uči da gledaju film, a ne da ga promišljaju kroz intelektualni proces.


Ajla: I discovered Experimental Film Society on Instagram, I didn't know that you were a founder of the project and the page which recommended so many great movies to us, and I think I even found out about Tarkovsky because of your instagram so thank you a lot for that. The first question I wrote is: What is Experimental Film Society, what is it's goal and how does it link with your work, with your movies?

Rashidi: Experimental Film Society was a project that I had started in the year 2000. When I was making films in  Iran I realised that there are two trands of filmmaking and  both have very strong history and place in Iranian  society, Iranian art and culture. But there wasn't anything that would be specifically dealing with production and distribution of experimental cinema, something  that from the very beginning I thought that I belonged to. It wasn't a concious decision, I didn't chose to be an experimental filmmaker, I didn't chose to be an underground filmmaker but simply I couldn't go to any other categories so it was somehow forced upon me to accept this aesthetic and approaches of filmmaking. As I was looking around I didn't see anything in Iran. There were lots of activities outside Iran, there where lots of film collectives outside Iran mostly, as usual, in Europe and United States, but there wasn't anything in Iran.[1] So what I did is that I followed certain European models and American models of filmmaking and by that I mean establishing a film club. I wanted to create a cinematic culture because of first and foremost I'm not a filmmaker, I'm a cinephile and then I'm a filmmaker. It is very important to establish that. Some people use cinema as means of conveying information but for me  it's never the  case. I don't have any stories to tell. For me it's always connecting  with cinema of the past, presence and hopefully present and do something for the future.  With Experimental Film Society I  gathered a lot of filmmakers, I invited them, I collected their films and I programed them in DIY fashion.  I screen films and I try to do it on a regular bases because one thing in cinema that is important it's  the repetition, over the course of time and it is only then that you can create what is called cinematic culture. By  collecting films from others, screening them and also gradually over time- producing them- EFS started to exist. None of that was planned in the beginning. It was always trial and error, a test. For four years I was operating like this, then I realised that I need to go outside Iranian system of thinking to  create my things because in Iran we have huge system of censoring films and everything needs to go through a certain governmental process. I didn't want to talk  to anyone. I just wanted to make films and I wanted to screen them.

When I moved to Ireland I saw the exact same situation.  There wasn't any culture and history of experimental cinema. I had to start everything from scratch again. That really proved me that it's not about the culture it's not about the country, this cinema is heavily neglected and systematically ignored. Somehow if the people can not deal with it they just reject it. As well as being an immigrant in Ireland, because of my cinematic choice I was another type of immigrant – mentally. Just by  simply a choice of making films you might force banishment upon yourself.

Ajla: When I was watching your movie i thought to myself that you went so far away from Iran. If you watch Iraninan movies there is almost like a pattern, there are movies about families, values, they respect shariah law (it's amazing how they can film a movie about husband and a wife without them even touching). Abbas Kiarostami left one of his projects to go film a trial of man he read about in the news and he felt like that man is alone in the world and calling for somebody. That's the closest that comes to something not typically Iranian, also Asghar Farhadi's work is different from his previous movies.

Rashidi: I did make four feature movies in Iran with archival and family footage, there is always  a subconcious  connection with Iran. I really believe in work in progress, I look at them as bricks, as something you gather. You don't think about using them at the time of the shooting but the fact that you recorded it – it means something. It doesn't need to have any profound meaning, but it has something. Over the time if you go back to this footage you might compile something with it. In cinema we call it essay film. Essay which is written by sound and image reather than text. So many people believe that cinema is visual language, that it has grammar – I don't believe that. I recorded a lot of material when I was in Iran, just recording- opsessive recording. It's not that i disconnected myself with Iranian culture, I still use it in a different way. I made my film Hades of Limbo using Skype and web camera to direct the whole thing, I had my actors in Iran and I was in Dablin, in my house, and I directed the whole thing. I didn't want to completely disconnect myself with iranians… The end result turned out to be one my most abstract and difficult films, and one of my unsuccessful films, I don't know  why.

Ajla: We mentioned Abbas Kiarostami, and I love how he choses and records human suffering in his movies and how he shows that even from belonging to religion some kind of utter unhappines can follow human being, like in his movie Taste of Charry. You also said Abbas Kiarostami is one of your all time favourites…

Rahidi: I have to say that Kiarostami was heavily ignored throughout all of his career in Iran. He never got any distribution for any of his films accept the one he made with children, because children cinema is safe. He was labeled as an inactive filmmaker, as a socio-political person, he wouldn't comment on anything.  Kiarostami was an outsider in Iran, nobody understood him for years and in 1995 he won the Cannes (this also happened in Italy with neorealism, they accused them with words: these films are too close to reality, we don't wont to see this anymore), the first retrospective of Kiarostami happened when he died, because when you're dead you don't produce anything.

Ajla: In one of his interviews Kiarostami said that the fact that he got allowed to film the trial and go inside the court in Iran, which wouldn't be allowed in any other country, meant for him that Iran is country of possibilities. 

Rashidi: He loved Iran, he never left (at the very end he made few films in Italy, Japan, which are great films but nobody likes them). The reason  I'm saying this, I'm not one of those people who praise Iranian… because if you don't criticize nothing good will emerge, if I don't criticize it if I don't somehow attack it nothing will change.

Ajla: At Q&A you talked about how you make your movies and the process of it, and the most important: your vision of your film before the shooting. You said that you wanted the couple, you picked the location and everything else just happened.

Rashidi: I make films all of the time, but this one is my biggest project so far, in any aspect. I had to have some sort of idea, infact I had to write a treatment in order to access the funds. I went through all these preparations, menagment, getting the fund. So I had to have something, but intentionally when I want to start I get rid of every written material I have. I don't trust paper. Some people love the script, some people, most people love text. For me it's a deceiving part of cinema. I'm against representation, against illustration, I don't understand these types (for myself). Because I don't want to illustrate something, it's too easy. I want to be in a battlefield and find a way to stay alive.  And for me cinema is the only way to do it. I bought a camera that I wanted, I brought the actors from UK and Portugal. We went to these strange locations and waited and I created the atmosphere which was very intense and I put them infront of the camera and I directed almost like a silent cinema director. I was shouthing at them (you said that you had your megaphone), yes, exactly, it was as if you don't know how to make films but you have to make films. It's very important to unlearn and then learn again on the spot. Once you have a formula you will end up replicating that, constantly, and that's very dangerous thing. I just want to live the film.

For me cinema is not an intellectual process, it's very visceral experience.

Ajla: At the beginning of your film (the first scene shows the lightning) I was on my phone and I jumped because of how strong the sound was. This proves that some movies should be watched in the cinema rather than on your laptop, but I also thought to myself that the first scene of your movie represents what you want your movie to do for the audience.

Rashidi: Exactly, I want them to know what's expecting them from the beginning. If they don't like the film they might leave. You shouldn't trust a filmmaker at all. Filmmaker is nothing but a charlatan, a fraud. You should trust your own instinct and that's what I always try to push with my films.  For me this process (co-creation) is constantly shifting the role of creation: who is the creator of this monstrosity, this creature, abomination. I encourage participation.

Ajla: At the Q&A you said: ‘This is the only way i know how to make films’, but I wondered was this the way from the beginning or was there a point when you shifted to this type of filmmaking. 

Rashidi: This film compared to my other films is very soft (I laughed then mr. Rozbeh laughed) much more gentle. My other films are extremely agressive like the one I made before, it's three hours long. For me it's very extreme but intentionally I wanted to do something with this film that would kind of, like reconciliation, because for years I was very angry at so many things about cinema, about this rejection, because  it's like having a child but the child can not speak or child that nobody wants to put in school. Each film is a responsibility, it's boredom, like: you make one film and you think it brings you happiness, it doesn't, it brings more boredom. Because it doesn't really go anywhere. It's not an easy life, believe me! Especialy when you deal with feature films and I have made 34 of them over the course of 20 years. I'm constantly in the state of creation and also producing 10-15 other filmmakers within Experimental Film Society. But I love to put myself in this hell, in this chaos, something strange comes out of it, it's like Pandora's box.

Thank you for your answer.

Rashidi: What was the question?

Ajla: Watching some scenes I felt like I saw something for the first time, that didn't exist in the cinema before and the sounds in your movie made me think that the sound and the melody are the most vivid part of art, like the art and the universe should first be listened to.

Rashidi: I strongly believe that image doesn't make cinema. Sound is much more important. Really. I tested this formula: I have another project called Homo Sapiens project, it's not an artistic project, it's not about creating films as art, but about creating film as a scientific research. And I have tested so many formulas and one thing I realised is that in the end no mather what type of editing you have with images, that's nothing- it's always the sound that creates, gives it context. That's why silent cinema is extremely important for me. The lack of sound and how you fulfill everything with music or without music, the decision you make with sound . There is magnificent filmmaker from United States, Stan Brakhage, he is experimental filmmaker. With one or two of his films at  the beginning, he made them with sound but all the others are silent, completely . And this drives you to madness. As if you have weight on your body, it's  just too much, because silence is very hard to bear. Just imagine you are in the museum, lots of these screenings are in the museums or gallerries, and you hear everyone, you start to notice them breathing. This lady in the audience (at the Q&A in Kino Meeting Point) said that it (acting in his movie Phantom islands) is not believable. Why should it be believable? There's nothing real about it.

Ajla: One women sitting in the row behind me said: Will this movie end? (Imal ovo kraja? na bosanskom).

Rashidi: From the first day until now, for me it's about limits of the audience; how much pressure and  torture, how much pleasure you can give. It's always about the limits, because when you go to your limits something will happen. I'm glad that the lady said that: ‘I want be free, I want to go back to reality.’


[1] *for the devolopment of experimental cinema