Hi Sonia, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Firstly, I’d like to ask what first attracted you to making a film about drug trafficking?
The Exam’s story is a mixture of my personal experiences at high school and a true story I had heard from one of my friends. I mixed these two, and I wrote the script. For me, going to school was all about restrictions, suppression, and stress. In the movie, the school’s atmosphere was a reflection or metaphor of a controlled society and cultural crash, in which you could see the social failures’ symbols in the movie! I always wanted to illustrate the experiences I had faced. When I came across the real story about drug dealing at high school, I decided to recreate the situation and the actual characters.
How well do you think people understand the subject of drug trafficking and why young people are often forced into it?
I hold that most people can communicate and understand stories/ topics about drugs and drug dealing, as it is a widespread issue. Everyone in society, in any country, directly or indirectly, is struggling with this significant problem. Drugs and their harmful effects have penetrated society, especially in the daily lives of young people. One of the reasons is the effortless access to drugs (of any kind).
How well do you think the illegal narcotics industry is portrayed in film?
I wanted to portray the critical thing in my film: The illicit drug production and distribution industry is no longer the exclusive domain of a particular group and society’s class (such as the poor or criminal). In the film, we see an ordinary family in a relatively good house and neighbourhood. The poor and addicted person is not seen in the movie/ the story. The expansion of the drug trade is seen even among wealthy families, and this change is disappointing and painful.
How do you think coronavirus will impact the film industry?
Coronavirus has changed all aspects of our lives! I have believed that the world of image and cinema leaves the screens of cinema theatres, and new platforms and online media were replacing them; This was my opinion before the Coronavirus pandemic, and now, all my predictions are coming true.
We all know that we are going through hard times, but the best way to pass these days is to take care of personal issues and backlogs. These days, we have to be at home and alone most of the time, which is the best excuse to study, write, and research. Surely these days will pass, and the only thing that will remain is the result of the efforts and work that we have done during this period.
How influential do you think other directors have been on your style of film making or do you feel that your approach hasn’t been influenced by other directors?
Undoubtedly, every artist/ human being is inspired by a phenomenon, event, person, story, or artwork, and I believe Human beings are inherently influential beings. I may have influenced by Filmmakers like Lars Von Trier, Darren Aronofsky, Maya Deren, and Andrei Tarkovsky. Additionally, I should mention that film directors do not just inspire my style in writing and directing. Some theatre writers and directors like Harold Pinter, Samuel Becket, and Katie Mitchell have affected my artistic style and my approach to telling a story.
What was the casting process for the film like?
All my main cast are professional theatre actresses, and they are my friends. I know them from the time I was studying and working in theatre. When I wrote the script, I already fixed the roles and actresses, except for the leading role. Once I was writing the script, my co-writer (Farnoosh) told me about Sadaf (the leading role). She reminded me of a feature movie that Sadaf was playing its leading role. I watched that movie again and called Sadaf for a session of rehearsal. We read the script together, and I realized that she is a super smart actress with many acting potentials.
What was the filming process for the film like?
A film project is a collection of good and bad events and nostalgia. I think the process of writing and filming the film was a delightful and fascinating event, especially the story of the film “Exam,” which was a reference to the educational environment and the space that the actors and I experienced and the representation of those images and environment for us at the same time.
Fortunately, the process of making this film went very well and without any worries, and I owe this peace to my wonderful group. One of the strengths of this film project was that each person was in his/ her right place and had the duty to perform as well as possible. All my cast and crew were patient and supportive. They made this film a successful project by trusting me and my decisions, especially my producer, filmmaker, and talented and good actors.
What has the reception to the film been like?
Fortunately, from the very beginning, with my film’s premiere screening at the Toronto Film Festival, the film was well-received, and this encouragement and success continued. The film has been recognized as one of the most honourable shorts in Iran 2020 by participating in more than 90 international festivals and receiving more than ten prestigious awards. The most important point of Exam was its universal theme, which most audiences from different societies and countries could communicate well with the film’s story.
What do you hope audiences will take away from this film?
I like the viewer to wholeheartedly associate him/ herself with the moments and character’s experiences. I want the viewer to understand that a person’s decision can have a significant impact on the future and possible consequences, and any accident at any moment can fundamentally change a person’s life.
What future projects have you got planned?
These days, I am working on my next short film to shoot it in a month and write my feature film’s plot, which I have planned to make it in the next year in Iran again.
With thanks to Sonia.