Fateme Ahmadi, Iranian filmmaker and awardwinning screenwriter takes us on a journey of culture, facts and the true beauty of ‘lights, camera, action!’ whilst talking about her films ‘1001 Teardrops’, ‘Chandra’ and ‘Bitter Sea’.
How did the culture that you were raised in concerning the film industry and women; how did this affect your goal of being a filmmaker and what advice would you give to woman that may feel outcasted within the media or film empire?
“I studied cinema and made films in Iran, and to everyone’s surprise, it was/is a heaven for female filmmakers! According to some statistics, 25% of filmmakers who make their debut features in Iran are women. In America is only 4%! I am not sure how reliable those stats are but I remember I was welcomed to filmmaker’s clubs, workshops, and festivals; gender was not a barrier. But of course, there are still people out there who can’t imagine a woman shooting an action movie or can’t trust a female DOP with the equipment, etc. And of course, there’ve been occasions that I wished I didn’t need to try harder than my male fellow filmmakers to get an opportunity I deserved. The default image of male filmmakers is totally different even in the industry here. Most people tend to entrust them more with big jobs, big budgets, and great opportunities because of a historical gender imbalance that has been continuing in every aspect of our lives and had not been challenged much until recently. So, to answer your question, I thought I had no other skills! I’d be a better filmmaker than a cook or even a novelist. There were no direct connections between where I grew up and my choice of job. Advice? Maybe just a reminder that they are not alone and that if there is a will, there is a way!”
Your B’Oscar winning film, ‘1001 Teardrops’, what was your inspiration and highlights of the performance- especially winning the trophy at the first festival?
“One Thousand and One Teardrops was my graduation film from the London Film School. It was an answer to all the questions I had been asked during my stay in London. I wanted to make a funny film about a sad subject. Even now after four years, as soon as someone asks me about my films, the first thing I mention would be about One Thousand and One Teardrops. It’s very dear to me and I spent a lot of time working on its script and the production. The result was very well-received; It screened in +50 film festivals all around the world; our first award was B’Oscar so it really meant a lot to me. After that, we got Special Jury Mention for the Best UK Short at the East End Film Festival 2015, won the Best Film Award at the London Feminist Film Festival 2016. We were also nominee for the Best Documentary and the Best Student Film at the Imperial War Museum London Short Film Festival in 2016.”
Tell us about ‘Chandra’ and how does it compare to ‘1001 Teardrops’?
“Chandra has a long story! Back in April 2015, I was in Nepal preparing to shoot a script which was awarded by the Asian Film Academy but a devastating earthquake in the middle of preproduction ruined everything including our plans. The new script which is now known as Chandra is based on our own intense experience in that time. We were not able to make the previous script anymore because the locations were either ruined or affected by the earthquake and people were not emotionally ready to get involved in filming when frequent aftershocks kept interrupting their daily lives. So, I guess Chandra was an inevitable and organic reaction to the situation I happened to experience back then. Nothing close to any other experience I ever had before with my LFS films or OTAOT. It is a beautiful film to watch though and it did very well in the festivals too.”
‘Bitter Sea’,suggests much of your work revolves around women and them being ostracized possibly. What connection are you giving to the audience, is it somewhat personal? What’s the message that you’re conveying and why?
“I think the fact I am a woman and the stories that attract my attention are mostly about women could be the answer. ‘Bitter Sea’ was inspired by true events and my involvement was very much just capturing a normal piece of the routine life of a woman I used to know and dramatize it in a way that myself and everyone else, hopefully, could connect to.”
What other projects would you like to explore and why? How would you like your future to go with Beeston Film Festival? Can you see yourself being on the judging panel very soon?
“I was thinking I’d finish my feature script after Bitter Sea but a great opportunity came up recently and I’m off to Tunisia to make another short film that will be premiered in Directors Fortnight Cannes this year. Beeston Film Festival & their lovely organisers have been really kind to me and I’m grateful to them for their endless support. It would be my honour to be connected to Beeston Film Festival in any way. All women from across all diversities are accepted within our local film community and together we will fight as one to let our voices be heard! Most importantly let’s share our love of films together!”