Gold & Copper at VIFF
Today we spoke with the talented Iranian director Homayoun Asadian about his deeply moving film, Gold & Copper (Talo va Mes)
WD: What inspired yo to make a film about this particular story?
HA: That's a very good question. This film came about while I was making films for television about Iranian carpets: because they are works of art. We had prepared two stories about carpets and when we were preparing the third one somebody approached me and gave me a two page script and asked if it would be useful for the third version of the story.
When I blast through it very quickly I thought the quality of it was too good to just make a film about carpets and that we should make a cinematic film. Those two pages gave us the inspiration for the idea and after that we spent about nine months writing the script, modifying it many times, enriching it, and the end product is what you see now.
For me, the most important thing when reading the two page script was the situation the husband and wife were confronted with. That alone, for me, was very interesting to try to portray: the crisis. It's difficult to explain because, as with poetry, no language can be translated one hundred percent. There's always a little that gets lost in translation.
WD: Can you tell us about the title of the film.
HA: For thousands of years humans have always tried, with chemicals for example, to change something which is not very valuable, such as copper, to gold. The metaphor that we are trying to portray is that in a much deeper sense, as a human being with a sense of emotion, a sense of enrichment as a human being, you turn yourself from somebody very elementary to somebody very profound and very philosophical.
That is the parallel: the metaphor. It is literally gold and copper, and then in spiritual terms, what it means to apply it to a bigger picture.
WD: What were some of the challenges in making this film?
HA: This film was very difficult for me to make. Firstly, I had to tell a story that was very, very challenging. Secondly, we had very limited places we could film due to the budgets etc.. For me it was a huge challenge to try to make the film come to life with these limitations.
The most important challenge was that they had broached a subject that was very sensitive to Iranian society. It was almost like walking on a tight-rope. We had to be very careful to balance properly: to make a point but not to be so limited that you are not saying what you want to say. That was very difficult balance to judge. I wanted to convey to the public the feelings, but also be very careful of how to manoeuvre: to stay within the limitations of the allowances as a director.
No only that, but the actors who were chosen for the film were not well known Iranian film stars. This was the first major role for both the actor who portrays the cleric, as well as the actor who portrays his wife with Multiple Sclerosis. None of the actors were professionals. That in itself was a challenge.
I have made several films and two television series and whenever I make a film I have anxiety and stress. Even for this particular film, in every scene, I had anxiety about whether it would be portrayed the way I wanted.
The scene that has affected most people is the one in the kitchen where the woman is struggling to make dinner, but that wasn't the hardest part to film or for the actor to portray. The hardest part for me to film was at the end when the man was trying to tell his wife that he loved her.
For that scene, I had to shoot about twenty takes because I wanted the actor portraying the wife to express her content and feelings of the love through closing her eyes and allowing a natural smile to emerge. To get that expression was very challenging: it was the most difficult to film.
WD: Was there anything unexpected that happened during the process of making the film, either during or in post?
HA: There was one surprising thing that happened that made me think “oh, what have I done here.” We had fifty reels of film that we had shot. We gave them to the lab and later were informed that the majority had been accidentally destroyed.
Many of the scenes we were forced to shoot again. Some of them we weren't able to shoot so we had to either abandon those scenes or use takes that were of a lesser quality.
WD: That's absolutely heartbreaking.
HA: (nods and smiles)
WD: There is a beautiful mix of tragedy and humour in the film that is very moving. Can you speak to that: the process of writing and how you got that balance?
HA: About two days ago it was raining very fiercely in Vancouver and there was a lady struggling to cross the road pushing a baby buggy with a plastic cover. The image of the woman struggling was very sad to observe: her against the rain and wind. When they passed me in the cross-walk, I saw that there were two babies in the buggy and another one tucked under the cover at the back, walking and pushing the buggy. It made me really laugh, that in fact it was this baby who was pushing the other two.
This is life. Life is all about that: tragedy and comedy go hand in hand. They are parallel to each other and if you really are observant, they're always there on any level and all the time: you just have to look.
WD: What has been the response to your film so far?
HA: In Iran it was very successful: especially for people who are in that line of clerical work and very conservative, or open-minded young students who are very open in their relationships.
What appealed to me was that the film appealed to different sectors of society: Muslims, Armenians who are Christian, and even to people who are Atheists. For me I had conveyed a message of heart and emotion to such a huge, vast sector and felt it was quite an achievement.
The experience of screening in Vancouver confirmed my thoughts, that I had tried and was able to convey that message, because so many people have approached us to say that the film has an international feel and that it would appeal to anyone: it's a language of humanity more than just religion from a specific country.
WD: What can we look forward to seeing from you in the future?
HA: The reason why I am rushing out of here, after the screenings, is because I am in the process of making another film that will make a point from an emotional, humanitarian base. It is a very positive film that talks about the need for love in order to deal with crisis etc.. The name of the film is Kissing the Face of the Moon.
I'm hoping I'll be invited back to VIFF next year with this film.
And so do we. If it's anything like Gold & Copper, it will be a great success.
Go to www.viff.com for listings and tickets.