My Tehran for Sale, at VIFF
Today I had the great pleasure of speaking with director/poet Geranaz Moussavi, about her debut feature film, My Tehran for Sale, a poignant and unique look at life within the largest city in Iran.
We sit in the lobby of the Westin Bayshore and Ms. Moussavi is confident and relaxed.
VO: Could you please tell us a little about yourself?
GM: I was born in 1974 in Tehran and I went to primary school and secondary school in Tehran. When I was sixteen I started publishing my poetry relatively widely in magazines and newspapers: literary newspapers that were available back then. When I was in grade eleven, I acted in my first feature film. I had been active in school theatre and all that, but nothing professional. That was the first time I experienced cinema professionally. I did my second feature film when I was nineteen.
I was born to TV/film parents. My mother was a video grader and my dad was a sound engineer for film and TV, so I was raised amongst all these sorts of people.
I enrolled in science at university because when you're a good student and you come from a middle class family, you are expected to become a doctor or engineer, or something along those lines. I knew that I wanted to be active in the world of literature and cinema.
I miscalculated and thought that I could study science, so I wouldn't live a poor life, and could continue filmmaking and acting as well. This, of course, didn't work because I was always busy in drama classes while I was supposed to be studying science. Inevitably, I had to drop university half way through.
I was simply more focused on acting and drama school and writing.
Just after high school, I worked as a book reviewer and editor for a literary magazine.
When I was twenty-three, I immigrated to Australia with my family. It was then that I made up my mind not to be an actor, but a filmmaker. So I started with a bachelor degree, and graduated with honors in screen studies at Flinders University in Adelaide, and then went to the Australian Film Television and Radio School in Sydney, and did a post graduate degree in editing.
After that I did my doctorate in the field of filmmaking and screen studies, with a theme of poetic cinema, at the University of Western Sydney.
Meanwhile, this film happened. I was writing scripts all throughout these years, one thing lead to another, and I was able to make this film.
VO: Could you tell us about your film, My Tehran for Sale.
GM: I had had the idea for years, in my head. I wanted to tell a story of my generation. Un-said, and un-told Iranian stories. For some reason, mainstream media isn't interested in them. They are only interested in the hectic side of Iran, the political side of Iran, and not really focused on individual stories, the stories of middle class Iran.
It was always showing Iran poor, deprived, rural, or Iran upper class, politically run, and the whole tension between these two classes.
The Iranian industry was somehow dismissing the middle class story. Maybe because the market was more available to the exotic sides of Iran. Maybe that was what was being offered in a more kind way to Iranian filmmakers. I don't know the reasons. I've got my ideas, of course, but I can't be completely sure about them. The important thing is that, as a result, the Iranian films grew to be known to international audiences as rural films with no rhythm, landscape films, films for children or about children, or films with marginalized characters from the outskirts of bigger cities like Tehran. Rarely films concerning middle class people, urban life, contemporary life, and the complexities of these paradoxical lives within the city.
That was the main thing that got my attention because a lot of other stories existed that needed to be told.
Because the culture and society of Iran is so diverse, it seemed to me that that piece of the puzzle was missing.
I got to thinking about it, trying to collect stories using my own experiences, as well as my friends' stories, and my observations of society.