It’s International Women’s Day yet again, whereby we rightly celebrate the work and influence from women across the globe, and it’s wonderful on such a day to introduce Iranian filmmaker Ida Panahandeh, who has been over recently to Edinburgh as part of the Iranian Festival to introduce her films, Nahid and Israfil.
Ida spoke to The Fountain about the natural process for her to speak of femininity, being a female filmmaker and her reasons for being part of the Edinburgh Iranian Festival.
TF: You must be ecstatic to take your films to the city that hosts one of the biggest and renowned film festivals?
Of course it is. I am very glad to be invited to a British cultural city to screen and introduce my film. Frankly, it’s always exciting to watch my films with people of different cultural and historical backgrounds because they are watching them with a new and different point of view. Sometimes they have interpretations of my films that may not be similar to the people of my country.
TF: And also bringing to the fore womens rights issues, it’s an important one, how do you feel about this?
Naturally, as a female filmmaker, I would like to speak of the femininity of women in my country, and I think this goes beyond mere “women’s rights” as a social affair. In both of my films, Nahid and Israfil, I have tried to enter the internal land of women, and this is a vast and still unknown area for cinema audiences around the world. Of course, there are great movies about the feelings and emotions of women, but in my country, Iran, there is still a lot of unspoken words. Propounding women’s social issues and problems are, of course, fundamental and important, but more importantly, showing how women have learned throughout history to suppress their emotions and instincts. For me, this part of the life of women has a more fundamental significance, and this is what I learned for the first time from the poetry of the great poetess of Iran, Forough Farrokhzad. How Forough versed with bravery of her female instincts and forced a nation to hear. Or, in another way, reading the works of Virginia Woolf, I realised that essentially writing about women could be as amazing, deep, and away from slogans. We must remember that many times, even the women themselves, are incapable of touching and discovering their inner life and soul.
TF: So your film was being screened and there was a Q&A as part of the Iranian Festival – what are the themes of the film?
What was interesting to me in question and answer sessions was the careful attention of the European audience to the metaphors and sub-layers of both of my films. I mean the audience, in addition to being well-connected with the story and the atmosphere and characters of the film, wanted to discover the other meanings of both works and understand what the meanings of the films symbols are.
TF: What was it about The Edinburgh Iranian Festival that interested you and made you take part?
I think the most important thing was the good record that the international film distributor had in mind of the Edinburgh Iranian Festival, and urged me to come to Edinburgh despite being extremely busy. In our first encounters with the festival organisers, I noticed that these guys were not just gathered together to do the job and perform their duties. But, more importantly, it was the very high and admirable motive of these guys to introduce the Iranian culture accurately to the people of Edinburgh. These guys are all well-educated and have lived away from their homeland for many years, yet they are still in love with their homeland and want to introduce the culture and art of their country to their second home, and they seem to be very serious and determined in what they are doing.
TF: Are there any events you are hoping to attend at the festival yourself whilst you are here?
More than anything else, I enjoyed visiting the wee corners, the streets and alleys of this old and cultural city. I found Edinburgh a calm and beautiful city with friendly and warm people. Of the few that I visited in Europe, I did not feel homesick, and I did not want to return to Iran as soon as possible, as this city was lovely and peaceful. And then I asked my friends to show me the nature and the suburbs, and they agreed, and I must admit that the Scottish nature was something beyond beauty; all that lush meadow hills and fields and small bays and blue sky were a magical and mysterious miracle, which is recorded forever in my memory and I will not forget them.
Israfil (2017) is second film of Ida Pnahandeh that was screened in BFI London film festival. For more on the Edinburgh Iranian Festival click here.