Rouzbeh Rashidi (born in Tehran in 1980) is an Iranian-Irish filmmaker. He has been making films since 2000 when he founded the Experimental Film Society in Tehran.
The essence of his filmography, epitomized by his feature films, resides in war’s profound impact on his formative years. However, he has intentionally veiled this theme, allowing it to simmer beneath the surface of his films. This artistic choice has endowed his work and career with an enigmatic quality, teetering between clarity and mystery. Within his creations, everything and nothing coexist, giving birth to a surreal and ever-evolving realm.
Over time, Rashidi was inspired by Serge Daney’s writings, where he explores the idea that our passion for film originates from the emptiness created by the absence of a paternal role model. Like an orphan, the cinephile finds solace in the Cinema, a fantastical sanctuary that now becomes a reality. However, in Rashidi’s case, it is essential to acknowledge that this diagnosis and doctrine are incomplete without considering the absence of three other crucial elements: country, nation, and, perhaps even more significantly, culture. When these pillars are missing or nonexistent, the individual is compelled to create their own cinematic universe in order to thrive. This dialectical journey ultimately leads to an exquisite form of expression—the poetry of Cinema as a way of life.
The filmmaker’s work is consistently steeped in profound political themes, capturing his personal encounters and responses to society. Throughout his career, he has invariably transformed his artistic style and methodology. While his motivation is politically driven, he refrains from overtly addressing it within his films. He has always believed in an ideal world; films would be devoid of words, images, and sound. However, in reality, this is rarely achievable. Above all, he believes that a film should not “mean” but “be”.
From 2000 to 2019, he broke traditional boundaries in formalistic and thematic conventions. He ventured into radicalism, creating eleven experimental feature films and two hundred and one instalments of the Homo Sapiens Project. In 2023, his film Elpis marks a departure from his previous works as he dives into new realms of art and humanity that have always fascinated him. This phase of his filmmaking explores the power of slow Cinema, poetic documentary techniques, and film essays.
This intensive exploration was merely a cathartic endeavour to unravel the tangled threads of his existence and formation in his birthplace of Iran. From the gruelling ordeal of eight years of war to the suffocation of limited freedom of speech, the constant threat to personal privacy, the tumultuous journey of immigration to Europe, the disorienting sense of being an outsider, and the chaotic process of rediscovery and rebirth, his life experiences melded with my artistic expression in ways he could never have foreseen. All this has been utterly and thoroughly expressed and reflected in his films.
In his films, the focus lies not on subject matters and meanings but on the impact and essence of events. It is the hidden intensity of these events, rather than the events themselves, that captivates and empowers the audience. Without the ability to create poetry, what purpose does Cinema serve?
He manifests his authentic self through his films, utilizing a personal, intuitive, and unintellectual approach. These films serve as tangible embodiments of his identity, originating from a fractured ancient culture suspended between its past and future, devoid of any awareness of the present. Similar to an archaeologist of the self, he tirelessly explores his core and the experiences that have shaped him.
Crafting a “fluid identity” to navigate the challenges of immigration has been essential for his films. Over the years, this process of deconstructing and reinventing language and identity has become the cornerstone of his filmmaking practice. Initially, instead of associating himself with any specific country, he found solace in being part of the world of Cinema and exile. These physical and mental spaces have become his true home. Thus, every film he creates is fueled by the “agony” that resides within his life.
Rashidi’s artistic vision defies traditional filmmaking, challenging traditional storytelling norms and embracing a unique approach to Cinema. His films are a harmonious blend of visual and auditory elements, creating a poetic experience for the audience. Rather than following conventional scripts, Rashidi delves into the realm of experimentation, using unconventional screenplays and texts. For him, creating moving images is not just about conveying a story but about embarking on a journey of exploration and self-expression.
His work is deeply engaged with film history and primarily concerned with mysticism, philosophy, esotericism, cosmology, phenomenology, and hauntology. The films are wildly experimental and often surrealist, magical realist, and mysterious and have been associated with the Remodernist movement. They are unified by his oneiric imagination, idiosyncratic working methods, and the dreamlike experience of watching them.
The films are inspired by, and constructed around, images, locations, characters, and immediate situations. Rashidi has made bold use of a wide range of moving image devices, including Camcorders, Digital Cinema Cameras, DSLR Cameras, Mirrorless Cameras, Drones & Aerial Imaging, Action Cameras, Consumer Camcorders, Surveillance Video & Systems, Telescopes, Spotting Scopes, Night & Thermal Vision, Analog Video Recording and Super 8 film.
Renowned for his expertise in combining diverse imagery sources and his meticulous post-production work, Rashidi, a skilled photographer, consistently pushes the boundaries of his craft. He fearlessly explores uncharted territory by experimenting with unconventional lenses and filters, even crafting his own. Notably, his later feature films have earned high acclaim for their distinctively hazy aesthetic, achieved through the use of specialist 19th-century lenses like photographic portrait objective lenses. Furthermore, Rashidi handles the creation of captivating soundscapes that complement his films. By consciously avoiding conventional dialogue in most of his works, he pays homage to the early days of Cinema, which serves as a frequent source of inspiration. This artistic choice serves as a reminder of his enduring belief that Cinema is an ever-evolving art form, constantly being invented and reinvented.
Rashidi believes in filmmaking; intentions need not define the artist. There is no obligation for deep contemplation or hidden meanings behind every frame. Sometimes, even the creators may remain unsure of the visions they birthed. Yet, these filmmakers can profoundly evoke emotions and stir sensations within their audience. But what if, amidst the prevailing beliefs, a different purpose emerges? What if the essence of filmmaking lies in concealing intentions, dissolving meanings, and rendering everything invisible instead of laying it bare? What if the goal is not to describe but to poeticize every aspect of cinematic art?
- Feature films
Since the year 2000, he has devoted his attention to creating and overseeing the development of 12 innovative feature-length films. Initially, he provided full financial support for his early films, while his more recent works have been low-budget productions supported by the Arts Council of Ireland.
The complete filmography is HERE
- Home Sapiens Project (HSP)
The Homo Sapiens Project, an experimental video series, is the brainchild of Rouzbeh Rashidi. From its humble beginnings as enigmatic film diaries, the series has been evolving over time to refine its craftwork form into feature films. During the Project’s journey, Rashidi has had the opportunity to explore and embrace various experiences while always staying close to the core components of the project — compelling renderings of both people and places imbued with undertones of science fiction, horror, the occult, and associations to post-apocalyptic rituals and dystopian settings. Rashidi has sought out prestigious global contributors, both behind and in front of the camera, to help create and assemble diverse poetics of instalments varying in length and scale.
- Screenings and international exposure
Films have exhibited worldwide at film festivals, museums, galleries and cultural institutions, including the 70th Berlin International Film Festival, Spectacle Theater in New York, Festival du Nouveau Cinéma in Canada, Fronteira Film Festival in Brazil, Bogotá Experimental Film Festival in Colombia, Museum of Modern Art in Brazil, Tehran Museum of Modern Art, Sharjah Art Foundation in UAE, Istanbul International Experimental Film Festival, European Film Festival in Romania, Dublin International Film Festival, Cork Film Centre Gallery, Cork Film Festival, Lausanne Underground Film & Music Festival in Switzerland, Philippines Film Institute, Irish Film Institute and Cinemateca Nacional del Ecuador and Onion City Experimental Film & Video Festival in the USA.
Films have been screened on every continent except Antarctica.
Details are HERE
- 2023 _ Special mention in the “STUDENT JURY AWARD” category at the Flight / Mostra Internazionale del Cinema di Genova
- 2023 _ Oberhausen Seminar (69th International Short Film Festival Oberhausen)
- 2020 _ Berlinale Talents (70th Berlin International Film Festival)
- 2018 _ Best feature-length Experimental Film, Istanbul International Experimental Film Festival.
- 2017 _ Festival de Diseño Audivisual Experimental de Valdivia (EFS Award).
- 2009 _ Best short film, 3 SMEDIAS AWARDS.
- 2008 _ Best short film, Cork Youth International Film Festival.
International film festival jury panels
- 2021 _ Kinoskop – Festival analognog filma (Serbia)
- 2020 _ Berlin Revolution Film Festival (Germany)
- 2018 _ Experimental Film Festival Process (Latvia)
- 2017 _ Bogotá Experimental Film Festival (Colombia)
Rashidi is a recipient of the Film Bursary Award, Film Project Award and Next Generation Artist Award from The Arts Council / An Chomhairle Ealaíon. He has also received awards and supports from Culture Ireland, Dublin City Council, Fingal County Council Arts Office, and Temple Bar Gallery and Studios.
- 2021 _ Lichtenberg Studios (Berlin-Germany)
- 2017 _ Tyrone Guthrie Centre (Monaghan-Ireland)
- 2016 _ Lichtenberg Studios (Berlin-Germany)
- 2015 _ Lichtenberg Studios (Berlin-Germany)
- 2012 _ The Guesthouse (Cork-Ireland)
- 2011 _ The Guesthouse (Cork-Ireland)
- 2023 _ Workshop at filmArche e.V. (Berlin, Germany)
- 2022 to present _ Lecturer at The Universität der Künste Berlin (Berlin, Germany)
- 2022 to present _ Tutor at The Berlin Art Institute (Berlin, Germany)
- 2022 _ Workshop at Kino Armata (Pristina, Kosovo)
- 2021 _ Lecture at The Berlin Art Institute (Berlin, Germany)
- 2021 _ Masterclass at Tehran International Short Film Festival (Iran)
- 2021 _Lecture at Lichtenberg Studios (Berlin, Germany)
- 2021 _ Workshop at Hochschule für Gestaltung Offenbach (Offenbach, Germany)
- 2020/2021 _ Masterclass at Baltic Analog Lab (Five-Months Course) (Riga, Latvia)
- 2019 _ Masterclass at Universitatea de Artă Teatrală și Cinematografică „I.L. Caragiale” din București (Bucharest, Romania)
- ‘Prodigious cinema.’ Adrian Martin.
- ‘An important new direction in the context of contemporary Irish experimental film.’ Donal Foreman.
- ‘The Iranian-Irish filmmaker Rouzbeh Rashidi actually seems to get closer to this fine line between “experimental” and “narrative” than any other filmmaker known to me. And this is no mean feat – it requires great nerve, and good verve. True artists are those who not only envision something particular, but who also go after it with energy and passion… Rashidi is like a 21st century Bresson.’ Bill Mousoulis.
- ‘Rouzbeh Rashidiis a ‘cinemist’, a term borrowed from visionary Spanish experimental filmmaker, theorist and inventor José Val del Omar that combines in one the words ‘cineaste’ and ‘alchemist’. This affinity could be expanded even further if the presence of a spectral, quasi-tactile impression achieved through light pulsation and a ghostly mysticism that is common to the work of both artists were taken into consideration.’ Esperanza Collado.
- ‘Rouzbeh is proving to be forging his own path, making distinctly personal films that grow in ambition, skill and vision from one film to the next.’ Film Panic.
- ‘Rouzbeh Rashidi with Phantom Islands has created another incredible work, that, by redefining the concept of cinema, is set to become an unmovable point of the contemporary and future avant-garde. Rashidi proves himself to be one of the best avant-garde filmmakers of recent times.’ Cinepensieri.
- ‘What continues to surprise me the most is the productivity, the effectiveness and the variety of the cinema of Rashidi especially in an impervious terrain like that of the modern experimental cinema. Phantom Islands is already one of the best movies of the year.’ Cinemadermister.
- ‘It might reasonably have been thought impossible that a film would ever be made that could be described as an “underground epic” without any hint of irony. Yet Trailers is that film.’ Irish Examiner.
- ‘Director Rouzbeh Rashidi is a man well-versed in the styles and structures of classic experimental and surrealist film, and it shows.’ Victoria Film Festival.
- ‘What’s most astonishing about Phantom Islands are its dreamy visuals and ingenious music score, as well as the pitch-perfect sound design that more than compensate for the lack of dialogue. Virtually each shot is exquisitely composed, each tone being a worthy accompaniment. A masterwork of the (re)modern avant-garde.’ Nikola Gocić.
- ‘Rouzbeh Rashidi is the prototype of (true) filmmaker of the future.’ Post Tenebras Cinema.
More reviews can be found HERE
- Academic research
His work has been the subject of much academic research, including the Remodernist film movement’s first comprehensive history by Florian Maricourt at the Université de la Sorbonne Nouvelle, under the research direction of Nicole Brenez, a professor of cinema studies at the Sorbonne and curator of the avant-garde film series at the Cinémathèque Française in Paris. Read it HERE (in French).
- Experimental Film Society (EFS)
‘… The most active, prolific and intrepid group of experimental filmmakers working in Ireland’.
EFS, founded in 2000 by Rouzbeh Rashidi in Tehran, Iran, and later based in Europe, is a production company known for its no-budget and low-budget feature-length films and short films. Over the years, EFS has expanded its reach by organizing screenings, performances, and talks globally.
At the core of EFS is a commitment to nurturing film projects with a unique cinematic vision. The films produced by EFS are characterized by their dedication to personal and experimental cinema.
While no defining characteristic unifies the filmmakers associated with EFS, founder Rouzbeh Rashidi has always embraced the potential for catastrophe and the unknown in both his films and the running of EFS. Drawing inspiration from science fiction, horror, the occult, pagan rituals, dystopian themes, and the avant-garde, EFS consistently creates works that challenge traditional cinema norms. Cinema is re-articulated as a more heterogeneous space containing all galaxies and forms of life, even ones we can sense but can’t fully comprehend.
In addition to producing films, Rashidi curates experimental film screenings featuring artists and filmmakers affiliated with EFS from around the world. In mid-2017, EFS became a company limited by guarantee to support its increasingly ambitious and professionally funded projects. Rashidi oversees the archival and production of EFS films and also manages its online video hosting, including ‘EFS Video on Demand’, which offers streaming and downloading of short, medium, and feature-length films.
Rashidi has co-edited, contributed to and published two books, ‘Luminous Void: Twenty Years of Experimental Film Society’ and ‘Luminous Void: Experimental Film Society Documents’. With contributions by critics, curators, filmmakers, and artists worldwide, they provide a guidebook to the imposingly vast ‘luminous void’ of Experimental Film Society cinema and filmmaking. He is the founding editor of EFS Publications, an online journal edited and published by the Experimental Film Society: efspublications.com.
Read the EFS statement HERE.
- Further Information
He offers various services on an international scale, including commissioning, mentorship, private tutoring, and consultancy. Those looking to take advantage of his knowledge and expertise are all welcome to reach out with their inquiries. No location is too far for him to service! He is available both virtually and in person worldwide, giving you full access to his services no matter where you may be located!