30 Aug 2016

Proposal “X”

“X” will be a poetic examination of experimental filmmaking in Ireland and Iran viewed through the personal prism of my experience of emigration and a specific multicultural background that has at least as much to do with the culture of creating cinema on the margins as with either country.

June 1st 2016 marked the 12th anniversary of my emigration from Iran to Ireland. I was 23 years of age when I arrived and now I am 35, and a tremendous number of life-changing events have occurred in the meantime. However simple the reasons that cause a person to emigrate might initially seem, it inevitably becomes apparent with time that immigration is a highly complex process that never reaches an end point, even if you decide to return to the place you came from originally. Questions of exile and identity, both one’s own identity and that of society itself, confront you every day. And, on an emotional and existential level, it becomes clear that ‘going back where you came from’ is not and will never be really possible.

The story of my immigration (and, in fact, my whole adult life) is inextricably linked to my experimental filmmaking and to Experimental Film Society (EFS). EFS is an independent, not-for-profit entity specializing in avant-garde, independent and no/low budget filmmaking. I founded it 2000 in Tehran and continue to run it. It unites works by a number of filmmakers and artists scattered across the globe but mainly linked to Ireland or Iran whose films are distinguished by an uncompromising devotion to personal, experimental cinema. It began as an organization for producing and archiving films, which it still does. But since 2011 one of its main activities has been organizing and promoting screenings of EFS work in venues all over the world.

From the very first day I arrived in Ireland, in 2004, there was only one crucial question in my head: how do I continue EFS in this new country? My jetlag had not even subsided before I started to work on this notion and I have doggedly continued to do so in the 12 years since. One of the main reasons I had left Iran was because the cultural environment was so hostile towards the sort of personal, formally radical filmmaking that I believe in and practice. I was isolated in that situation, as were my colleagues in EFS. I soon found the situation in Ireland was not so different. If not hostility, for years I experienced indifference and incomprehension towards what I was trying to create and achieve here. Looking at my situation and that of EFS members both in Iran and Ireland, I concluded that radically personal, formally challenging filmmaking of the kind we espoused placed artists in a marginal situation whatever the society they live in. And that this situation has a great deal in common with being an immigrant: the same constant, urgent need to question one’s identity, one’s place in society. In filmmaking, ultra-radicalism is a choice that you must carefully decide upon, because it is not simply a way of filmmaking but also a way of living. We are all exiles.

This film will examine these questions, exploring the many links between Ireland and Iran that EFS has forged. It will be shot between Ireland and Iran, and it will look at the working methods of EFS members and delve into what motivates them. Its form will be poetic and meditative, using documentary portraiture but also the Irish and Iranian landscape to great effect – an essential part of so many EFS films. The whole film will be informed by my autobiographical sense of a migrant’s displacement. “X” will give a unique insight into the processes and uncompromising visions behind a rich and truly alternative international cultural dialogue.