An Interview with Amir Naderi (Director)
The Breathing of Audience and Film Were One
Q: The last time you attended YIDFF was in 2003 when you were on the jury.
AN: It’s been 15 years. I remember the screenings at Yamagata had such a nice atmosphere, and I’ve always wanted to come back. I still remember vividly the films I saw as a juror that year—like Wang Bing’s nine-hour film Tie Xi Qu: West of Tracks and the American film Stevie by Steve James. The Iranian film The Old Man of Hara by Mahvash Sheikholeslami also stays with me. Over the following years, I’ve kept in touch with Yamagata staff and met them at other film festivals, so I’ve always felt as if I’d been taking part in YIDFF. The programming at YIDFF is thoughtful of each and every film and its future, which is rarely seen among film festivals. It’s important to be able take away something from the festival experience, and not just go home and forget it all.
Q: Do you have any comments on the Iran program this year?
AN: When they set up a retrospective of my films in Paris, the organizers were having difficulty obtaining screening copies. So I was worried that YIDFF would also meet problems in gathering proper materials. But once I got here, the program and the film copies were excellent and I realized that the programmers did a really wonderful job. I thank them from my heart. The staff are kind, sincere, and are running the film festival with care.
I saw most of the films in the program, all of which had my hand in them in some way—I was part of the filming or I had been to the location. That’s why I was able to speak about them on stage. I was most moved that the screening order was carefully thought out. The final screening was Bashu, the Little Stranger, which felt like the crescendo at the end of a symphony. I have not been back to Iran in 37 years, but this special program allowed me to release the pent-up air within me and return to who I had been then. Every sound, including the small ones, were audible and the images were clear. It was fantastic to see how the audience had respect for the films and were watching seriously. The breathing of the films and the audience were one. I can see that the film festival has grown solidly, probably because the roots of its origins were set properly, and how this gave rise to such a wonderful event.
Two films by young Iranian filmmakers were shown in the New Asian Currents section. I was moved by both. It gave me peace of mind to see that they are walking the proper road. There was a solid sense of their respect and learning from Iranian film history.
Q: On stage, you spoke about how you “choose the difficult life, because the easy life is boring.”
AN: That’s the person I am. All the films I made were filmed in nature. I love a challenge. The energy doesn’t rise within me without being challenged. I drop myself, my staff, and my actors into a pit before embarking on a film. That pushes up everyone’s energy level. I was thinking what film to make after Monte, and I thought of making a film about Mizoguchi Kenji. I learned so much from Japanese cinema, that I feel the need to return the favor. Taking inspiration from Mizoguchi’s beautiful camerawork, for example, I hope to show my gratitude to Japanese cinema.
(Compiled by Inotani Yoshika)
Interviewers: Inotani Yoshika, Tokunaga Ayano / Interpreter: Shohreh Golparian / Translator: Fujioka Asako
Photography: Niizeki Shigenori / Video: Niizeki Shigenori / 2019-10-15