26/10/2018.- Today, Friday 26 Oct., Iran’s filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof joined the Valladolid Festival via video-conference during Seminci’s tribute to his film career. “Thank God, no one can imprison my mind,” he said on being awarded an Honorary Spike which he was unable to personally collect in the context of the Festival’s retrospective of five of his seven features which he himself selected. “My first film cannot be screened in Valladolid because when I was arrested in 2010 they broke into my house and confiscated everything, so that I don’t even have the original print: the only one I have has a very poor quality,” he explained.
Rasoulof’s filmography consists of seven features (including one documentary) that have not been released in his own country due to a ban on their exhibition. His interest over violence —particularly the violence of an oppressive state— is central to his filmic output. This is a subject which for the filmmaker —who holds a degree in Social Sciences— is a lot more complex than having a dictatorial regime. “The people who rob you of your freedom are in turn influenced by others above them in the hierarchy of power relations”.
Violence and freedom
It is precisely the lack of freedom that plays a key role in his approach to filmmaking , which exhibits a clear breach between The White Meadows and Goodbye. Rasoulof himself explains the reason for this rupture: “From the very beginning I had to be very careful. I had to cope with censorship and avoid upsetting certain people. My films became a way to indirectly express my views to the audience in the hope that they understood my take on the situation in Iran. But with the events of 2010, the confrontation that I had been trying to avoid for so many years eventually took place. So I said to myself: ‘Well, after all I am under their scrutiny now.’ So I started making more straightforward films.”
The Iranian filmmaker announced some of his plans with a view to a future project in response to the absence of leading female characters in his previous films (the exception being Goodbye). “Honestly, I found it hard to portray female characters, however hard I tried,” he confessed. “This is kind of haunting me and I don’t want to make another movie without meeting this challenge. The truth is I have something in store. It is very difficult to get it done in secrecy and I need for things to calm down a bit before trying.”
His point about “things calming down” is not a minor one. His fellow countryman Motjaba Mousavi, who directed this year’s Official Section short-film entry Aghaye Gavazn (Mr. Deer), asked him about his plans to get away from the tough situation in Iran. Rasoulof answered by saying that if he were to decide between having a pair of wings to fly away and being a diamond that lasts forever, he would make the latter choice, adding that “I am aware that someone who has not been invited to this videoconference is listening to it right now, so allow me not to disclose my plans at this point.” He finally concluded: “Since I know I’m being listened to, I would like to send a message to the ignorant government of Iran. Whatever they do, they won’t be able to shut me up.”