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AN INTERVIEW WITH Bahar Ebrahim, DIRECTOR
As a filmmaker, please introduce yourself.
My name is Bahar Ebrahim, and I was born in the summer of 1980 in Teheran. My mother is a Persian artist, and my father was a film director,
translator, and caricaturist. After graduating High School, I migrated to Germany to study pharmacy.
During my studies I took a job as assistant to an Iranian-German film director and immediately fell in love with filmmaking.
Because of this love for directing, I left university and got into a training program to become a film director.
Why did you become a filmmaker?
My childhood dream was to become a university professor. I liked going to school and learn about the world around me.
My grandfather’s wish for me was to study pharmacy. He also had wanted my father to be a pharmacist,
but my dad was more drawn to the arts and didn’t care about granddad’s wishes. But I did listen: So, when I came to Germany,
I wanted to fulfill my grandfather’s wish and enrolled at university to study pharmacy. But life had other plans and now I work in the same area
as my father: I am a film director. A huge part of me wanting to create films is that I feel different. I’ve always wondered about people’s behavior
in social situations, that they more or less perceive the situations similarly. I’m convinced that I’m somehow wired differently.
Maybe that’s why certain perspectives of mine appear strange and unusual to others, and therefore make my films interesting.
Give some more information about yourself and the films you have made so far, about your experience?
After my father’s death in 2013 I felt that I needed to create something, so I made a short. Before that I had only worked as an assistant director – this was my first movie. “Everything’s fine” revolves around Marie, who sleeps on the terrace when suddenly woken up by a telephone call.
Her best friend Samanta has good news. The role of Marie is embodied by a known German actress, Bibiana Beglau.
The short film was nominated 2014 at fsff Fünf Seen film festival Deutschland, Open Air film festival Weiterstadt, and at
the Noor Iranian Film Festival. After this film I got my first TV job as director at Constantin Entertainment Germany, later I worked at other production companies. In 2015 I found an old screenplay written by my father, so I decided to revive it. I wanted to honor his artistry.
I ended up adapting and producing it in 2016. This film, “Children are Angels”, was shown as guest film at Cannes Short Corner the same year.
Along the years the film was nominated and won prices, which surely would have made my father very proud and happy.
I continued working with different TV formats on the side. The last film I made is a documentary on 16 Iranian women of different generations
who speak about their life experiences, their unfulfilled dreams and about love. My intention was to provide insights into the
hermetically closed spectrum around Iranian women, which are usually not shown. My current project is a 90-minute fiction movie.
What are the films or people that had impacts on you and deeply inspired you to become a filmmaker?
The director Abbas Kiarostami is my idol. His unique way of working, often without a screenplay, fascinates me.
He crosses the borders of the usual cinematography and uses the construction of the film itself as subject.
I once read the term “meta-cinematography” referring to his work, and I think it is exactly that. My favorite film of him is “taste of cherry”.
I also feel very much at home when experiencing Charlie Chaplin’s work. He ignites this fire in me, this drive to strive for the impossible.
His films make me rethink my perspectives and his humor questions well-known thinking structures in me that I want to break open.
Not to forget Lars von Trier! His film “Dogville” is a masterpiece. I fell in love with this incredible way of creating a visual miracle
once you decide to float through the three hours of pictures.
You have made your film "Children Are Angels" which got official selection in the
"American Golden Picture International Film Festival".
As a filmmaker, why you decided to make it?
I am a child who grew up during a war. I saw missiles in the sky, and I could smell the blood. My younger brother, too.
He was sensitive, when he was young, and he was afraid many times. It was the war between Iran and Iraq.
I remember vividly one time my brother painted flowers onto a ceramic vase, when we heard airplanes launch missiles.
He held his hands around the vase to protect it. Based on this scene, my father developed the screenplay. He called it:
“Children are Angels”. His intention was to start filming in Germany a couple of months later, but unfortunately, he would not be able to…
One day, while I sat in the sun, I thought about all those children in war zones. In 2016, many children died in Orient countries because of war.
I decided to honor my father’s wish to tell the story in pictures and I started to work on the adaption of his screenplay
“Children are Angels”, thinking metaphorically, why go to war if you can protect flowers. “Children are Angels” revolves
around the effect news coverage of war has on a little boy, who shows us the discrepancy between the perspectives of children and adults on the subject.
What were some of the challenges you faced in making this specific film?
We only had three days to film the whole thing. The main character was a little boy, and there were other children acting, too. So,
it was definitely challenging. Luckily, a few good people had my back and believed in me and my project.
The toughest part was to get the filming permit for the children. The person in charge was convinced it was a violent film.
He did not read the screenplay. I had to convince him that the film was peaceful. It seems almost absurd considering
how violent some war video games are and how children are not protected from it.
Let us know more about your experience in this film?
It is challenging to work with children because we adults often are very narrow-minded concerning our perspective on things.
Among other adults, we consider ourselves creative and multifaceted, but the moment you dive into a child’s view on things,
you immediately learn how restricted your own perspective actually is. I feel honored to have worked with such talented actors and
I’m convinced that I successfully put the message into pictures that my father intended to be conveyed through this film.
What was it like to work with your team?
My team worked on a voluntary basis because I could only finance the production. They were all great.
This film could only be shot through private financing. The cast as well as the crew, they all joined the project because they really liked the story.
Everything was challenging: the time slot was tight, the money was lacking, but – we had endless love!
We all agreed on the basics: no war, and yes to love.
For you what was the biggest lesson you had to learn after making this film?
The biggest lesson for me was that I was able to put this specific view I have on things, on people, on the world, into a coherent movie and
at the same time convey an important message. I never doubted my skills, but I often acknowledge how different my perception
is in comparison to how other people see things. After shooting “Children are Angels” I knew I would find the right people with whom
I could create a film out of my stories. I started working on a 90-minute documentary.
What keeps you inspired to continue filmmaking?
I just love people and their stories. People I know and people I don’t, I’m always interested in learning about their stories.
Especially funny or somehow curious incidents – they make excellent movie material. I’m easily impressed.
Maybe it’s a good thing then that I think a have many bizarre views on everyday situations.
The most important part is distributing the film. What did you do for distributing this film ?
Usually, either you have a distributor, or you have enough money to register your film at film festivals. I didn’t have either of them.
I felt that it was difficult to draw attention on the subject “war”, when there was no immediate political situation making people reflect on it.
Now, the time has changed and there is a lot of new interest in my film. I took the opportunity to offer a peaceful perspective with my film,
now that people are discussing their different opinions on war.
What are your filmmaking goals?
At the moment, my goal is to produce my next project, which is a 90-minute fiction movie. I’m not used to making plans for the future.
My plan is always to complete the next step of my current project. I intend to convey my perspectives through my films to the audience.
With documentaries, I want to share the privileged insight that I was given. I constantly wonder, if the people in my documentaries,
feel comfortable with how they are shown. If our views match – if I respected their personality. It certainly is a genre that is very special to me.
What is your next project?
A fiction movie, revolving around a house and a child, again.
Good Luck Bahar,
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