YIDFF 2011 New Asian Currents
An Interview with Shahin Parhami (Director)

Protector of the Music of the Nomads

Q: The traditional music of the Qashqai tribe has a mysterious appeal. What brought you to document in a film?

SP: During the Iran-Iraq War I went to Canada to study music, which I have always loved. There, I became interested in diasporic traditional Iranian music. When I went to Iran to look for that music’s origin, in my home town I happened to meet Amin, a 16 year-old passionate about the traditional music of the Qashqai people. The Qashqai are nomads, and their music often expresses feelings of leaving home and wanting to find somewhere to stay. I was already drawn to the music of my hometown, but because the commonalities I felt between it and the traditional music of Iranian-Canadians, I was drawn in from a new viewpoint. Film production began when I received a call from Amin, who was living in Kiev. It was 8 years after I had first met him.

Q: Did filming Amin go well?

SP: Amin is a very popular musician among the Qashqai tribe. His song that plays at the end of the film could be a ringtone on Qashqai peoples’ mobile phones. When you walk with Amin people come up to you, and all the homes we visited to gather material on him received our staff warmly. I felt that people wanted to do everything could for Amin, the hero of their tribe. In the beginning Amin seemed to try to play the part of hero well, but as filming went on he grew able to express himself. We included a scene where he reintroduces himself because we wanted to show the parts of himself he was performing. Amin was satisfied with the scene, saying, “It’s good that it gets across how much of a perfectionist I am.”

Q: Are you satisfied with this work?

SP: Overall, I think it’s not bad. But to be honest, the films I like to make are more abstract and artistic. However, I wanted this film to be accepted by a broad group of people and not just artists. I did include some portions in my style, though. Documentary films do not have predetermined plots, and they are not made according to a plan. You shoot things as they happen, and in the end you don’t know how it will end up. I think that as a documentary director, it’s hard to ever say a work is 100% what you intended.

Q: And what is your style?

SP: Documentaries are often mistaken as objective facts. However, when you shoot with a camera you ignore what’s outside its frame. Images are extremely subjective. To communicate this, I began the film with a fiction-like scene. I wanted to express that this film is one kind of fiction and does not present facts as they are. Also, as an artistic device I used black and white for the scene where Amin speaks in his room. I think this decision allows audiences to focus solely on Amin, and not be distracted by colors and other extravagances.

Q: I was astonished by the scene in which a nomad suddenly receives a call on his mobile phone.

SP: To tell you the truth, I was also surprised when I first encountered that scene. He was talking on the phone while herding sheep, as a satellite television in another nomad’s tent played a Michael Jackson song. I wanted to show how technology has spread on a global scale.

(Compiled by Arakaki Maki)

Interviewers: Arakaki Maki, Koshimizu Emi / Interpreter: Takada Forugh / Translator: Kyle Hecht
Photography: Katsumata Erika / Video: Hanaoka Azusa / 2011-10-09