Synopsis: In a school run by an authoritarian regime, a seemingly ridiculous decree becomes a syllabus for terror.
Where did the idea for the film come from?
I was inspired by all of the uprisings that happened across the world in the past two years, starting in the Middle East and sort of spreading out from East to West, from the Middle East to the occupying of Wall Street. All that desire for change everywhere inspired me.
Where was the film shot and what country is it set in?
The film was shot in London in a studio. The language of the film is Farsi which is obviously Iranian but I didn’t want the film set in a specific country or bound to a specific region because I think the message of the film is quite universal. By shooting in Farsi, I wanted to give a nod to the Middle East. I specifically made the atmosphere in the classroom that the film is set in quite weird. It’s inspired by the school I went to as a child in Iran, so I wanted to remake that but in an exaggerated way and add elements of magical realism. I love magical realism. When the film begins, people think that it’s a real setting. But bit-by-bit they realize that it has some surreal elements to it. It’s more like an allegorical story. So I wouldn’t say that it’s set in any specific country or place. It’s about an idea.
So you grew up in Iran?
Yes. I grew up in Iran. I left there when I was 18 and moved to England. I went to university in the UK. I have been living and working here since then. I have been here for 10 years.
Are there aspects of your schooling experience in Iran in the film?
I wanted to set it in a classroom because the scariness of a classroom that I went to as a child that always stayed with me. Children are very perceptive and I’ve always believed that whatever happens to you in your childhood stays with you forever. Even if you don’t remember it all, it will always be a part of you, buried deep somewhere. I think that’s quite an important thing for a filmmaker, an artist, or anyone in the creative industry to dig and try to use those.
The film is nominated for a BAFTA award in the UK. How was that experience?
I couldn’t believe it. The nomination was such a great experience and it opened so many doors for me.
How many short films have you made?
I have been making films for myself since I was 16 but I’ll say four serious ones.
What advice would you give to someone who is about to make their first short film?
Keep it short. A lot of people want to squeeze a feature into a short film. Or they want to make some sort of trailer for a feature. A lot of filmmakers make this mistake, especially young filmmakers. They think that once it’s made, it’s all over. They think that someone is going to open the door and say, “You’ve made this amazing film, please let us screen it.” That’s not the way it works. You need to spend time send it out to festivals, get it out there. That is almost as important and as tough as making the film itself. I talk to a lot of filmmakers and they don’t even know how to promote their films after it’s finished. I think it’s a key thing. If you make a film you need to have an audience for it. You need to find the audience.