Iranian filmmakers are not passive. They fight whenever they can, as creative expression means a lot to them. The restrictions and censorship in Iran are a bit like the British weather: one day it’s sunny, the next day it’s raining. You just have to hope you walk out into the sunshine.
The bigger confrontation is the one an individual has with itself.
There is no privilege in restriction. In other words, I disagree with people who say restriction makes you more creative. I think that’s a misleading slogan. I might have been more creative without them than with them.
The process of writing is like creating a game of dominoes: The first domino creates the second incident, and so forth until the end.
Classical tragedy was the war between good and evil. We wanted evil to be defeated and good to be victorious. But the battle in modern tragedy is between good and good. And no matter which side wins, we’ll still be heartbroken.
I feel that it means a lot to the people of Iran that my film is represented at the Oscars, and it makes me happy to bring them that joy, that I’m representing them and that I’m able to give them that element of pleasure to be the envoy from Iran. It’s a very pleasant thing.
When I decide to write a story, I don’t think too much about what I want it to be, I just let things come naturally and this is how it turns out. It’s just how my subconscious works.
It’s been interesting to see how similar audiences in the East and West are, actually, and how it makes you realize that when politicians emphasize the differences between our cultures, it’s usually because it benefits them more so than us.
It’s very difficult to talk about religion in Iran because religion has gotten so mixed up with politics.
Often times, music is used to evoke an emotion and it’s become a cliche, so I don’t want to do that, and actually what I do, is that emotional intensity that has developed throughout the film, I allow it to get released by having that music at the end with the credits.
It’s not some big event that creates the drama, it’s the little things of everyday life that bring about that drama.
I tend to jot down moments, lines, interactions that don’t really make any sense. I try and explain these scattered notes to my close friends, and they become more and more logical. I see screenwriting as a bit like a math equation which I have to solve.
I think it’s insulting to an audience to make them sit and watch a film and then give them a message in one sentence.
I feel it’s important to talk about the complex issues affecting us.
Is there one specific source that determines correct morality and everybody should follow that? Or should individuals come up with following that source or not depending on their situation?
I prefer to stay in my country. But this doesn’t mean if someone does want to leave Iran, I think they’ve done something wrong – the desire to leave is completely understandable.
Each person makes their own choice, but my spirit is meant to stay in Iran, especially with the work that I do, and with the emotional connection I have with the country – with all its difficulties, this is why I stay.
When we talk about self-confrontations, we are speaking about moral issues rather than social issues.
When I came to know theater, drama became valuable to me.
I like storytelling movies and more than that I like historical movies; and I think someday I’ll definitely make a movie about the past 50 years history.
I would have had the same narrative, regardless of the atmosphere and the restrictions.
Unless you’re trying to make a movie on the sly, there’s no way to get around this. If you want to use public spaces, film on the streets, have the cooperation of the police, you have to have a permit.
The fact is I’m not making a film in order to draw pictures or make images about Iran.
There are those who simply want to live their lives, and feel they cannot live the way they want to in Iran. Others are ideologically motivated: They will stay no matter what and try to change things.
I gained a great deal from the period during which I worked in theater and I value those things a great deal.
Poetry, especially traditional Iranian poetry, is very good at looking at things from a number of different angles simultaneously.
If you give an answer to your viewer, your film will simply finish in the movie theatre. But when you pose questions, your film actually begins after people watch it. In fact, your film will continue inside the viewer.
For the Americans, it is not attractive to hear what the similarities are between them and the Iranian people. It is attractive to hear how different the Iranians are.
I can’t make pronouncements about the entirety of Iranian cinema, because there’s such a great number of filmmakers and because of the diversity of points of view and filmmaking attitudes.
Art removes boundaries and makes the world brighter. It is the common language for people all over the world. But politics are the opposite completely. Politicians, their very meaning is based on the lines they draw.
It’s the governments that create the problems. People are fun; people get along. People in Iran really love Americans. There is no problem between us.
I try very hard to write in a very orderly and continual disciplined manner.
I always feel that a viewer has an expectation about every moment of the film and where it’s going, so if I act against that, I’ve created a twist. In fact, it becomes a kind of game with the expectations of the viewer. This is the superficial appearance. In the layer beneath, there is a hidden theme.
Doing interviews about my films really bothers me sometimes, because I have to speak directly and clearly about things I’ve intended to keep ambiguous, and in a way, I feel like I’m betraying my film.
I have two daughters.
I really think of myself just as a filmmaker.
I lived in Paris for two years with my family. I would roam the streets of Paris during the day for a few hours in the subway, on the streets, and I listened to the French language, and I got a sense of the rhythm and the melody of the language.
During all of my writing career – this includes when I was writing plays and my other screenplays – I don’t recall ever writing a negative character, which does not mean that my characters aren’t flawed or do not make mistakes. In actual fact, they all are quite flawed.
I don’t have a problem if someone else were to say that one of my characters is a good one and another one is not and is a bad one. I try myself not to have any judgment towards my characters, but certainly the audience might.
Whenever I write a part, I think there’s this person somewhere in the world that this part is specifically for, and all I have to do is go searching to find that particular individual.
Working with children is very different than the way in which I work with adults. One has to work just as much with children as with adults, but the manner of work is very different. I never tell the children the actual truth of the thing that I want them to act.
Even the things we are certain about are only an illusion. We are born with a female side and a male side, and these two sides are always fighting and challenging each other. This is why anything we want to do, we have the other side of telling us not to do it, to be careful about it.
The goal in some types of yoga is to try and reconcile all the characters within a person, and, in fact, the word ‘yoga’ comes from the word ‘union.’
In most cultures, men represent tradition and women represent change and future. Women, because of their ability to give birth, are more connected to future. Men tend to keep the status quo.
You can make a film in a way that, when the audience leaves the theater, they leave with certain answers in their head. But when you leave them with answers, you interrupt the process of thinking. If, instead, you raise questions about the themes and the story, this means that the audience is on its way to start thinking.
For me, character comes from a specific condition or situation. I cannot really define a character outside that situation.
We have the wrong impression of life. We think the very big incidents of our lives are consequences of huge dilemmas or major decisions. If we paid attention, we’d realize that the determining incidents in our lives are ordinary things.
The success of one film may convince the filmmaker to try repeat his successes and get into a competition with himself. One cannot dwell on periodic successes. You have to look at it as a temporary, passing thing.
I think every human being in the world appreciates being encouraged and acknowledged.
There are many actors I really like and whose work I admire.
I must say here in France I had more serenity or security as I was working because I knew I was making the film the way I wished and that the film would be seen, ultimately, which is not always the case in Iran. In Iran, you always work having in mind this worry of will I be able to carry on my project as I wish and will the audience see the film.
You must know that Iran has a great number of productions. Many films are released. Most of them, like in the rest of the world, are commercial and shallow films. These are the most popular ones. And there are a few ones that actually develop more profound and thoughtful aspects of life. Only some of these films travel out of Iran.
After ‘A Separation,’ I found it much easier to work in Iran because I worked with very enthusiastic people who were very involved in the work, and that facilitated a number of things. It made it possible to iron out some of the difficulties found by other filmmakers in Iran.
Before I worked on film, I studied the theatre, and I expected that I would spend my whole career in theatre. Gradually, I started writing for the cinema. However, I feel grateful towards the theatre. I love working with spectators, and I love this experience with the theatre, and I like theatre culture.
I pay lots of homages. I wanted to pay tribute to a leading Iranian writer, Gholam – Hossein Sa’edi, who is buried in Paris – he is an Iranian Arthur Miller. He is of a similar stature, and his work is similar to that of Arthur Miller.