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People in Film: Maziar Miri

Nov 29, 2013

Today evening at 6:00 PM, do not miss out on Ajyal’s only public screening of ‘The Painting Pool’, a heartrending, remarkable portrait of two mentally challenged parents struggling to raise their child, and fighting for their right to lead a normal life and be a family.

We had the pleasure to meet with Iranian director Maziar Miri.

DFI: ‘The Painting Pool’ tackles quite an unusual topic. What brought you to this story?
Maziar Miri: I’d been playing around with the idea of making a love story, but I chose to go with the most difficult way to express love in a movie. Hence the topic of this film, which is not just about two mentally challenged people but, more broadly, about the lack of communication. I’ve always been fascinated by family issues, as I feel we don’t talk much to each other nowadays in the world. Instead, we are always ready to judge one other. I feel we live in a cruel, unforgiving world.

DFI: One of the greatest accomplishments of your film is that it is accurate and sensitive, and always rings true – and it never condescends to its central characters. Was it difficult to find the right tone? How did you work with the actors to achieve it?
Miri: I had worked with Negar Javaherian before, and I was familiar with Shahab Hosseini, so I knew what they were capable of. Actually, I wrote the script with them in mind. As for the child actor, we went through a very tough selection in Tehran schools. From an initial number of 1,000 kids, we narrowed them to 5. In order to pick the right one, Negan and Shahab rehearsed for two weeks with those five. As soon as the casting was done, I brought Negan and Shahab to a mental hospital in Tehran to study the behaviour of special-needs people. The first thing we noticed was how all the patients were full of respect and kindness and love, without restriction. If everybody had their attitude towards life, the world would be a better place.

DFI: Speaking about the innocence of children, how did you feel at screening your film, yesterday, to our Mohaq jurors – an audience of 8 to 12 year-olds?
Miri: One of the reasons I chose to come to Doha for Ajyal was because they told me that my film would be screened to an audience of [that age]. It was an unusual but incredible experience. Usually my films are seen by adults, who are serious and rigid, while these kids had so much energy and pure innocence! When I found out that these kids come from different countries around the world, I asked them to join me on stage and hold each other’s hands and promise always to be friendly and respectful toward one another and their neighbouring countries. If only adults did the same, there wouldn’t be so much anger and so many wars in the world.

DFI: You have been elected one of the nine members of the Central Council of Directors by the General Assembly of Iranian Cinema Directors. What’s your take on the situation of contemporary Iranian cinema, especially after all the worldwide attention drawn by the Oscar win for ‘A Separation’?
Miri: Iranian cinema has been through a very turbulent and tough eight-year period. The former Iranian president, during these eight years, has paid little to no attention to the arts in general. With the new president, I have high hopes that there is going to be more openness towards the arts, and towards cinema in particular, so that we can go back to our Golden Age.

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