04 May 2022
EFS Film School
1_Filmmaking: Demystifying oneself but remain an enigma at the same time in the process. Would that be possible?
2_”Why do you make films?” It’s an excellent question. Because there’s no answer for it, the paradox is that the moment you can answer it by definition, it means not filmmaking and Cinema. The exact reason you are making films is this not knowing why and providing an existential and physical space for the film to live and breathe. To inhabit and flourish. To haunt and transcend reality. If you know why you are making art, it’s time to retire making art.
3_Deep inside every film (good, bad or ugly) in the entire history of cinema, another hidden, forgotten, lost, and an utterly mysterious film exists; that one can bring back to life with surgery. It’s possible, and I have seen it many times in the form of a fleeting spectre. A hovering ghost…
4_There is only one thing certain, and that is that nothing is certain. And there is only one thing that makes me content: working on my film projects. Everything else out there for me is to observe and learn from unobtrusively!
5_Cinema never comes until the end of an era. It tries to understand what has happened, if ever. But it attempts like a volcanic eruption of forms. It cuts and slashes ruthlessly through ideas; what has happened to them (‘ideas’) is always the question it poses firmly. But can we see in this unknown dark universe? In this luminous void?
6_I have been talking with countless artists over the years. There’s one thing common in us: we all have migrated, displaced and subsequently alienated–even those who didn’t leave behind their country of origin, same faith different shape. There is always a snail-paced movement towards the understanding of this phenomenon within the artist’s body of work. I think the art itself will eventually burn out the creator to protect this mystery!
7_I use my mistakes, accidents and errors in a way that I (and subsequently the audience) no longer believe that once was an accurate, rational and correct method. Still, simply the catastrophe defines the current and future state of the creator and creation simultaneously. A self-regulated unorthodox fatalism that sustains my sanity and fuels the filmmaking process.
8_Cinema is not a reflection of life or society or even an instrument of change, it is evident that art cannot teach anyone anything. It is an echo of your deepest, most personal thoughts and feelings. In my view, the aim is not to re-create life but to divorce from it and delve into the dark void.
9_I don’t believe cinema is a communal experience whatsoever. It is the ultimate state of detachment, solitude and profoundly personal experience. We are lonely and by ourselves when we encounter cinema and watch films; yet, we persevere through this solitude.
10_Most personal and confessions art has its autonomous anatomy. The artist can only control to a degree. As creators, we tune in to frequencies and radio waves by experimentally turning the knobs and hoping to make contact. I’d argue that a gifted artist would look at the disaster and mistake as a hidden unintentional gift. Perfectionism is the worst enemy of creativity. Embracing chaos, accidents and juxtapositioning them in your ‘calculated’ craft will lead to unique films.
11_All that I am is the result of all that I have thought. It is founded on thought. It is based on thought. All that I am becoming is the result of all the films I have watched and made. It is founded on watching and making. It is based on cinema.
12_I make images as I make the film; that’s why I never know what I am making, just as I never know what the future brings. I cannot tell an image. And Cinema is images.
13_Angst is the antidote to boredom. Work is the antidote to stagnation. Mindset offers an antidote to melancholy.
14_All of my films are about you. Not about its maker. Eventually, I’ll become the audience of my work; therefore, it’s about me too.
15_I make images in my films to inhabit them like home. I began creating this dwelling when I started making cinema. This process is a lifelong work-in-progress project. My house will be fully complete when I reach the end. I have never had any protection, belonging or nationality but this condition.
16_I believe in half-truth pretence. There is a point in the invention process, in the creation, when you are producing any piece of art, that is a kind of control balance. So it’s not you who is constructing the work anymore. But it is the work of art that is creating itself. I favour non-finished ideas. It has to be complete with accidents in life. So, the film articulated the elements erratically. It is the way I feel satisfied, not knowing where I am going. But the cinema itself will consistently deliver if you give you wrestling with it.
17_Tomorrow will never come; it’s already here. So I have always subconsciously made films about awareness of time, assault on time, and the romanticisation of time. I didn’t make my films; they made me.
18_Don’t define your artistic ideology and beliefs. Demonstrate, exemplify and exhibit it.
19_In creating films, the materiality of your work and the fetishism towards them should be hand in hand in the process. There is no point in separating these two with mutes and theoretical approaches.
20_I am in a phase where I can’t make films with actors anymore (for the time being, at least) because this way of filmmaking for my existing ideas is too uneventful. So instead, I prefer conveying ideas that can come from the images themselves. So I will make my new film with a series of fragmented texts, quotations, voice-over, pre-existing images and newly shot materials. It is the first time I am making films with such mannerism, and it is an entirely new direction for me.
21_Every act of creation is an act of resistance.
22_I love cinema because every film was once a feasible narrative in its original intention, and by the time it is materialised as mind-matter (film), only shreds of its fabrication and fiction remains visible and invisible simultaneously. This self-governing act of forgery is precisely where imagination and fantasy lies.
23_My name is Boris Remy. I have always struggled to distinguish between reality and cinema all my life. In the end, I was vanquished by this dark and malignant force, and yet, I led an adventurous and utterly unpredictable life. I think overall, I am content and fulfilled with absolute nothingness. This moment is where I will bookend my final chapter…
24_I never belonged to any country (including my country of birth) and never felt identified to any specific culture whatsoever. Hence, over the years, I have been asked countless times what are your films’ themes then? The answer to this question is a work-in-progress, evolving and mutating just as my film works and I am maturing. The very fabrics of the fact that I do not know my themes are the exact themes of my films.
25_Cinema is the ultimate amorphous image machine. An utterly unpredictable living organism that turns the mistakes of the past into the solutions of the present and subverts this very system as it evolves. There is no point in resisting. It is (perhaps) conceivably adequate to try something different: Surrender.
26_I have great apprehension about what I do with time in my films, a personal and historical concern. By historical, I mean the time I lived so far, things I have experiences and situations I have envisioned. Yet, and surprisingly, each time I want to make a new film, I wonder whether I have anything in my approach and techniques to wipe everything out? That cleans everything away? This paradox exists because it needs to exist. After all, there is no other way for the film to get made.
27_We live our lives and slowly get wounded, scarred and healed to a degree but never fully recover. We encounter films that have similarities with our circumstances and conditions. We sympathise with these pictures and feel less lonely and isolated in the world. But the question remains: are we experiencing cinema, or the cinema is experiencing us?
28_There are many possibilities in the director’s mind, but there is only one in the filmmaker’s vision. The first is about conveying information and, hopefully, knowledge. The latter is about an incomprehensible yet experiential phenomenon and, hopefully, poetry. Yet, they both have a significant place in our existence.
29_Experimental Film Society is always here with you, in person, virtual and in your imagination. Space is abolished, the cinema is present. To move, set in motion, change, stir up, summon, call, be to called, command and kínēma: “movement.” It is forever changing, transforming, mutating, metamorphosis, and continually reinventing itself with endless identities, personalities, and characteristics—a luminous void.
30_Keeping up & employing the latest inexpensive consumer-end technology in your filmmaking process is essential because it expresses its time’s technological, social, aesthetical & political conditions. It also discourses the compaction or proliferation of urges and misconceptions.
31_Between 2005 to 2009, I was (very naively) deeply interested in documentary filmmaking. So, for four years, I made numerous films dealing with various issues and topics. Although they were playing in small film festivals worldwide, I was never satisfied with them. I thought I started with actual footage and presented the audience with “fact” and “truth”. The problem was that making formally challenging and thought-provoking films and art, in general, has nothing to do with the naive intention of the creator. It took me many years to learn; whatever an artist is making is nothing but absolute fiction, which is even more fascinating once you come to terms with this state of mind (for me, at least). Those failed documentary films ended up in my Homo Sapiens Project (200), made (on and off) for twenty years.
I also realized that “documentary” is the vessel for the creation and workings of cinema itself. Every film repeatedly revisits the fiction/documentary binary at the heart of this art from its inception in 1895, when the Lumière brothers staged a scene of workers leaving their factory for the camera, making at once the first documentary and the first fiction film.
32_With my Homo Sapiens Project, as much as I developed as an artist making them, I am equally committed to writing and theorizing (my ideas about cinema and filmmaking) about them to the full degree. So, in some ways, I made them to philosophize and hypothesize about life and art. Homo Sapiens Project lives and dies with me. On the other hand, my feature films are autonomous beings, I made them, and now they roam the earth and cosmos. They don’t need me any longer, and I don’t need to think about them whatsoever.
33_Cooking is an absolute artistic medium. I am now convinced that there is a fundamental connection between the food culture we carry within ourselves and how we make films; one practically determines the other.
34_When you regard the time in which story-telling films take place, it is a time that has no form whatsoever. It is, perhaps intentionally, for the sake of the deliverance and movement of the story, extensively ‘amorphous’ (without a clearly defined shape or form). I have always worked and made my films opposite to this formula, first and foremost because I don’t tell stories per se. Lastly, I create forms first and fill them in with the content of the process ‘lived’ in these forms (my personal life).
35_Cinema is archeological excavations of the umbilical cord between the creator and cosmos (unintelligible act). Cinema gives birth to a monstrous child into this world with the everlasting feelings of regret, adoration and the ego. An ourobous dynamic between the poles of love and despise. Cinema is catharsis, an incomprehensible ultimate act.
36_With age and experience, I have learned to slow down life and the process of filmmaking simultaneously. There are many ways to make films, but I only know two of them: one is extracting from memory, personal experience, sensing and living. The second is waiting for memory, personal experience, sensing and living to deliver the film to you at its own pace. So before I went to sleep, I looked at myself in the mirror. Finally, the thought of the demise of images soothed me, and I fell asleep.
37_When we view a film and experience cinema, are we ‘watching’ or ‘doing’? I have always wondered, the artist and audience are, in fact, one ‘entity/unit/being’ but separated/estranged from the moment of birth of the artwork?
38_The more personal, internal, inwards and confessional the film is, the more political it becomes and not the other way around.
39_Creating personal films means (for me at -least) you forget your life and only remember and analyze them through your work. So these sounds and images, what are they now, and where are they going? I don’t think any images escape you from any moment of your life. They are always inside you and are part of your nervous system forever. So there must be a liminal space between remembering and forgetting where cinema exists; there must be.
40_Of all the possible films I’m witnessing, seeing and imagine making while living my mundane life, I love and adore those I will never be able to recreate and give birth to. I take a tremendous comfort and eternal satisfaction remaining in the sheer melancholia of these passing kinetic moments.
41_Memory, personal attachments and sentimental experiences are the only actual authentic barriers between the filmmaker and the images they capture. By barries, I mean the ability to look and juxtapose them within the film’s structure once they are recorded and have now killed by the very hands that they are resurrecting them again. So naturally, it is impossible to remove our feelings and emotions from them, but it is possible to forget them and re-discover them to see how much they or we have mutated over the years. Cinematic amnesia is a deficit in memory caused by seeing too clearly and vividly.
42_I can’t remember where my home is, and I can’t forget the places I have never been to! Yes …
43_I look at my Homo Sapiens Project as a nightmare of a nuclear holocaust. A holocaust of my deep past and memories. An ever-mutating, ever recycling and hellish vision of what once was. This project is always about the past, which seems at first glance nothing changes. Still, once under the microscope of cinema, one realises that it is actually a wholly living and thriving organism. Therefore for me, the Homo Sapiens Project is equivalent to archaeological excavations with alien-like artefacts as instalments. The past is the wilderness of horrors, constantly being screened unto our minds.
44_Slow living, happy living, peaceful living. Life is too short …
45_Friendships are like imageless stories. The story comes to closure when a picture (images) starts to appear. I wanted this thing I wrote to go hand in hand with these bits from Jean-Luc Godard’s Germany Year 90 Nine Zero (1991).
46_Everything ends; nothing remains the same. Our lives are mutating and evaporating before our very eyes. Surprisingly, today I was thinking the only elements I remember from the past are the moments when I was making films. Those memories are not fiction, and they are accurate as far as I can sense them.
But everything else is nothing but a painful nostalgia of the past itself and heavily fictitious at the same time. I don’t think I could have any history but the history that cinema gave me. Goodbye old days, goodbye …
47_With some sections of ‘Homo Sapiens Project (201) (2002-2021)’ I wanted to experiment with the concept of how and if it is even possible to relate and assemble scenes and put a feature film together out of an unconnected, unrelated and a group of independent shorter works and create a whole new linked universe. I think Cinema is not a language (necessarily), but instead, Cinema is partly an ultra-complex system and partly an ever-changing mutant. Nevertheless, the image is first and always an image. There is no way to fully explain these phenomena except the experiential quality of the film itself in the duration of the movie proposed by the filmmaker. Hence, I believe we are only led to believe we are connected to the surface of cinema with enforcement of the illusionary nature of storytelling traditions. But images and sounds have a life of their own, utterly alien to the story and script.
HSP (201) was compiled, resurrected and constituted from a series of failed features that never ended but always began. Finally, I was able to restore this nonexistent artificial artefact from its non-historical context. Very similar to an archaeologist who deals with a material of future rather than past.
48_Homo Sapiens Project (201) (2002-2021) is the most personal, confessional, revealing and extremely intimate film I have ever made. I put two decades of my private life into it without any filtration whatsoever. I made it without any hope or expectation of any kind because of its mammoth length, which is a nineteen-hour experimental feature. For me, personally was a life-changing experience because of many factors but having the ability to work on it for 19 years and survive this life as an artist/filmmaker was the biggest reward. There is, ultimately, no difference between filmmaking and living life, in my view.
49_Today I was walking in the streets and looking at people. I thought about series of random thoughts and visions. Very cinematic, somewhere between language and images, a liminal space of nonexistent: 1_I know what I want, and I want it now. 2_Everything has changed drastically. 3_Tomorrow is here already. Tomorrow does not exist; it has never existed. So all we have is now, this very moment. Nothing else!
50_The spiritualist movement in the late 1840s, seance performances and stage magicians, collectively, had an enormous aesthetical impact on the “Early Cinema”.
My films have always been and will be alchemical seances between the audience and the cinema/creator. Why did the cinema seem so compelling to express such doctrines? I will continue my personal investigations with my upcoming film!
51_I believe as a filmmaker, it is impossible to define yourself. But, at the same time, it is not possible to not define yourself to survive financially and socially. Therefore, the only solution is to make and screen the films themselves with the utmost degree of personally, confessionally, and genuinely possible. Anything else is beyond our control. Nothing else is our responsibility whatsoever. None!
52_Sometimes I refer to some of the scenes and sequences of my previous films and can’t believe how I must have felt while shooting and editing those segments. As if you look at your past self and don’t recognise that person whatsoever. Nevertheless, it’s you and will always be you. This means I’m looking at my future films that are being made at this very moment as I write these thoughts. It’s equally frightening and exciting at the same time!
53_For me, making cinema (or art in general) is about catharsis and abreaction. Artist retreats into their alienation until there was nothing but themselves through bodily and mentally purging phenomena. I use/abuse or take my constitutional pain, chaos and turmoil, and pass it through the medium I refined throughout the years with my personalised craft to relieve myself to exist.
This entity is a massive emotional and intellectually charged energy that wanders the world as a spectre; it is no longer you, yet the artist is in a different parallel universe. So in a way, art has therapeutic qualities, and at the same time, one can never recover from this Ouroboros-like practice. This image of the Ouroboros lies in the thought of devouring oneself and turning oneself into a circulatory process that has no beginning or end.
54_The secret to connecting with Leos Carax’s Annette (2021) is patience, multiple viewing, film history and most important of all, sentimentalism. Extreme sentimentalism and not intellect but pure sentimentalism. A dying breed, indeed! Shattering film …
55_I make images in my films to inhabit them. Pain and pleasure, like light and darkness, succeed each other. These three photographs are from my past. With my new film, I will be creating my future images. I am excited and motivated!
56_Everything exists; nothing exists.
57_I want to inherit Cinema, but I don’t want to be needing it simultaneously. My films are already artefacts and ruins of the collective consciousness of gradual extinction, which Cinema is part of it. I am glad that in terms of the technological advancement of our civilization, I belong to the category of early pioneers of the digital era in art. The beginning of the end or the end of the beginning? That’s what I’m thinking at the moment about the next chapter.
58_With my Homo Sapiens Project (HSP), I treat cinema as an open public laboratory of cinematic experimentation rather than a finished product.
Effectively, I began by asking a fundamental and yet simple question: what is the notion and existence of cinema in the 21st century. Form, in my view, is the essential part of cinema. When you conceive a unique form, then narrative (and I believe all cinema is narrative to a degree), drama, or story can be articulated with it. Or you can have just the form itself, which is amazingly expressive in its own right. Of course, you need the idea to go along with it, but we all have some ideas about our lives, society, etc. Then I realized that I need a system that provides me with unlimited ability to engage with the craft of filmmaking. I also wanted to eliminate the name, identity and even purpose of each instalment without having the pressure of putting them in the circulation of screening and distribution. This agenda perhaps correlated with my continuing existential grasp of immigration. Therefore I decided to render all my experiments through the prism of science-fiction and horror cinema.
Finally, I wanted to create a project that I would forget about it immediately on the spot, even while I am making it and, of course, after it. In doing so, I’m finding that I can’t remember making most of HSP due to the massive production rate. Even those that this amnesia has not swallowed seem to exist in an artificial memory as if implanted in my mind by someone else without my knowledge. The whole project seems so alien and distant. I always dreamed about having a secret underground cinematic life in my work, like a metaphorical secret addiction. If my feature films can be seen as a daily job to earn a living, I created Homo Sapiens Project as a private nightlife to feed my addiction to filmmaking. They serve no purpose, and I could comfortably live without them. The sheer volume of instalments in this series makes it impossible for audiences to watch all of them, yet I still plan to continue making them.
59_To me, cinema isn’t saying about anything nor providing answers on any subject matter whatsoever. It is always about making a world for the audience, a cosmological universe if you like. Somewhere where they can exist, reflect, feel with their emotions, sense of their senses and even interact with their visceral faculties. Once this world is created, the maker departs from it. From now then, that planet orbits on its own will and have a life of itself. Only a haunting shadow of the filmmaker exists within its desolate landscapes. The audience will now inhabit and start to build from there if they wish to. This restless ancient soul travels in an unknown time and space without beginning or an end. Cinema is about making this enigmatic process.
60_I have just received one of the most authentic and accurate descriptions of my 2016 feature film TRAILERS: “a chainsaw erotica.”
61_I’m optimistic about the future and cinema simultaneously, and it’s something I decided to. At the same time, I remembered Samuel Beckett said: “To think, when one is no longer young, when one is not yet old, that one is no longer young, that one is not yet old, that is perhaps something.”
62_Over the past few days, I have been thinking and contemplating a lot to answer series of questions for an interview I’m currently giving about my films and EFS. The questions are very provoking and exciting to engage with. But furthermore, as always, I am obsessed with the idea of art and creation, so I just stumbled upon this magnificent quote. Francis Bacon clarifies his “non-rational” thought process in his interviews with David Sylveste.
63_Homo Sapiens Project (201) was completed in 2021 as part of re-envisioning and restructuring my filmography. This nineteen-hour experimental feature is constituted from many feature films I produced between 2002 to 2014. I made these films first and foremost as an extreme and extended formalistic exercise which eventually became a way of trying to make sense of my life as both an artist and an immigrant. I must insist that this work is not a new film but rather one that has been rehabilitated, reinvigorated, and resurrected from the dead. As if the film restored itself (with my help) to full health and normal living through discipline and healing after an extended, somewhat subliminal period of imprisonment, addiction, or illness. The healing was that they needed to become part of one unified body and nervous system. Therefore, the Homo Sapiens Project was the only possible final catharsis for the fate of these films.
I had made a series of films without knowing why I made them or for what purpose. All I knew was I had to make them because of a unique internal urge. As if you are pregnant with this idea and it needs to come out.
This film’s path had circled back on itself, taking the form of an ellipse or a spiral but never a straight unbroken thread. The rectilinear belongs only to geometry and not to the nature of evolving. In the end, I was scared and asked myself a fundamental question: what if this work also is part of a bigger film and scenario that I am not even aware of and cannot picture at this stage? My life as a filmmaker, perhaps? I do not know.
64_I have come to realize that images do not have any meanings. If they have meanings, then they are no longer images; they are words. Images are simply images and nothing else. Cinema is an inexplicable phenomenon made of images.
65_With Homo Sapiens Project (201) (2002-2021), I subconsciously made a film about awareness of time, assault on time, and the romanticisation of time in twenty hours. I have always said it and will repeat it; I didn’t make my films; they made me.
66_Can a film deal and grapple with an idea such as this quote below? That is exactly what I have tried to do with Homo Sapiens Project (201) (2002-2021), which is near completion. Watch this space!
67_”I had a terrible dream, I had a terrible dream.”
68_Currently, I am working on the release of the 201st instalment of my Homo Sapiens Project. I have written several blogs about my ideas behind this project. Here are some key elements from each blog:
I will modify, re-export, and remaster many of the previous feature films I produced between 2002 to 2014. These experimental features were made as a type of test or trial experiment. To be more precise, I didn’t plan on making any of these films. It is not a new film but rather rehabilitated, reinvigorated, and resurrected from the dead. As if the film restored itself (with my help) to total health or everyday life by discipline and healing after an extended or somewhat subliminal period of imprisonment, addiction, or illness. Therefore, this film’s way had come full circle or instead had taken the form of an ellipse or a spiral, following as ever no straight unbroken thread. The rectilinear belongs only to geometry and not to the nature of evolving.
69_I have said many times over the years that, at least in my case, I do not control cinema, but rather it controls me and my destiny. I have made a series of films that I have no clue why I had made them or for what purpose. All I knew was I had to make them because of a unique internal urge. As if you are pregnant with this idea and it needs to come out.
But why? The only answers to such questions are in the films themselves, films made under a specific set of human circumstances and situations at a given moment in your life. I found out that I have provided answers by making these films to questions that I didn’t even realise existed at the time.
Therefore, this film’s way had come full circle or instead had taken the form of an ellipse or a spiral, following as ever no straight unbroken thread. The rectilinear belongs only to geometry and not to the nature of evolving.
70_As a filmmaker, I have had to reinvent, re-imagine and re-arrange a big part of my filmography numerous times. The most vivid example of this is the 200th instalment of my Homo Sapiens Project. It was in the making (on and off) for 20 years. This eight-hour experimental feature constituted from short film experiments made between 2000 to 2010.
Now I am working on the 201st instalment of HSP, which will be compounded from the feature films I produced between 2002 to 2014. I explained my reason behind this decision in this blog which you can read here (https://bit.ly/2MZTXy8). I must insist that this work, as the previous instalment 200th, is not a new film but rather rehabilitated, reinvigorated, and resurrected from the dead. As if the film restored itself (with my help) to total health or everyday life by discipline and healing after an extended or somewhat subliminal period of imprisonment, addiction, or illness. I am predicting the film will be more than twenty hours long, if not more!
These are significant artistic and aesthetical steps and resolutions that I am fulfilling and executing, since 2019, before embarking on creating new films. Of course, at the same time, on a different level, I am pre-planning several future film projects, which is at the stage of preliminary preparation.
71_In the late 1990s, I watched Jean-Luc Godard’s Sauve qui peut (1980) and had the most profound impact on me on various levels. It seemed like a narrative film but extraordinarily fragmented and formalistic. Later on, I read that the film is experimental in its use of the technique that Godard called “decomposition”. There is a periodic slowing down of the action to a frame by frame advancement in the method. Consequently, the film was given the name Slow Motion when it was released.
Beyond the formalistic side, I remember this bit of dialogue in the photo moved me so much. It fueled me to do things fiercely without too much contemplation and only realise what I have done either in the process or after it. Very soon, I started to make my films and experimentations!
72_Sometimes reflecting on the ideas that someone has expressed feels like watching the movie on that concept in your head. Since yesterday, I have been thinking about this extraordinary concept:
“What is an image of silence? It is snowing on the water. And now, with your silence and my silence, we are snow going on the water; in doing that, we are making Cinema.” – Jean Luc Godard
73_In 2020, I transformed my entire catalogue of forty no-budget short films that I produced between 2000 – 2010 in Iran and Ireland into the 200th instalment (https://bit.ly/3rzxmYl) of my Homo Sapiens Project. I released a statement upon the release of the completed film explaining the reasons behind this filmography defining decision. But in short, those films no longer exist (or possible to watch) in any form or shape and now only available as one unit as part of my ongoing Homo Sapiens Project.
This year, I will modify, re-export and remaster a number of my feature films which also will become part of the HSP. These experimental features were made as a type of test or trial experiment. I assembled the films from footage I had accumulated over the years, archival footage, found footage and rushes donated to me by my close collaborators. To be more precise, I didn’t plan on making any of these films; I never thought about them systematically, and therefore I never specifically shot any ‘new’ material for them. In a certain way, I made these films to have something to work on, something to occupy my mind and enhance my technical and aesthetical skills. This is an attitude I have kept from the very beginning, to always keep myself busy with the craft of filmmaking.
My approach and methods of filmmaking have changed entirely since making “Phantom Islands” (2018) and “Luminous Void: Docudrama” (2019). And from these experiences, it has become evident that this experimentation period with such methods (deployed in those feature films that I am remastering) is finished. I want to make films that I can live with for a long period of time. Surprisingly (at least to myself), also these developments, renewal and mutations are thematically and poetically. Currently, I am pre-planning several film projects, which I will announce in due time. Onwards!
74_I have always refused to believe and accept the fact that the documentary genre in Cinema would be even possible. Directly because as soon as you touch the material, they become heavily subjectified and therefore fictionalised. At what point does a fictional construct collapse back into the documentary reality of the moment in which it is filmed? These mysteries have always haunted me and played a crucial role in my filmmaking. I make films with an almost documentary approach, using places and people that I encounter and responding to them with an uncommon degree of freedom and spontaneity. I construct my films from the footage I accumulate rather than from a predetermined script, which is also a documentary method. Yet the outcome is always the creation of a fictional universe. For example, particularly in my 2018 feature-length film, Phantom Islands, I consciously examined the tension between these two apparently opposing categories of filmmaking that seem less and less distinguishable the closer you look at them. Confronted with a landscape or a human being, does filming them or choreographing them in a specific way make them more ‘documentary’? Or is ‘documentary’ simply a category of fiction, a term used to give audiences an indication of the type of film they will watch?
We have to realise the fiction/documentary binary at the heart of Cinema that existed since its inception in 1895. And I want to propose a hypothesis with my films and on the work of other filmmakers that I deeply treasure. I suggest the real documentaries are films such as Ingmar Bergman’s The Passion of Anna (1969) because they are the evidence/sources/material of an internal landscape of the mind with no dependability or faithfulness to the reality of our existence.
75_Strangeness of Existence. The only way to get to know any auteur filmmaker’s universe is to watch all of his/her films, and at that point, it doesn’t matter if some of them are weaker than others, they all contain very crucial elements of his/her alchemy. Cinema only exists in an entire filmography and not merely as individual films.
Especially in today’s world, we are bombarded with an innumerable amount of moving images. The world flooded with media, and it is impossible to digest all of these images or even breathe under the weight of such a vast and growing mass. Only by creating work that is unique and entirely personal, deploying alchemistic imagery within a Cinematic context (of which the history is deep, ruthless and oceanic), can we bear down and define ourselves away from any monotonous or repetitious engagement with moving image that seems to stream from all sides.
Anything that resembles reality, naturalism and ‘perfection’ is hiding behind a safety-guard, and this is deeply worrying. With an intimate and personal Cinema, we can push forward in this seemingly all-encompassing medium and destroy any boundaries or safety mechanisms.
77_In the early 2000’s I wanted to make a feature film called “Human Models Of Inner-City” in the streets of Tehran, Iran. It was supposed to be a bleak and Black&White project about my perception of the city that I was born and raised in, something in reminiscence of Peter Emmanuel Goldman. Unfortunately, the film was never materialized but, I took these 35mm photographs as pre-production research. I spent days talking, communicating and making friends with a lot of extraordinary characters and people on the streets. Mostly working-class community, immigrants of neighbouring countries and rough sleepers. It was a life-changing experience, to be honest. I have many film plans and ideas that I want to make in Iran after years of being away when this madness is over. Onwards!
78_For the first decade of my filmmaking practice, I only made one film over the course of ten years but not intentionally and preplanned. This eight-hour experimental feature went through an immense amount of changes, mutations and trial and errors until it reached its final shape and form. I was technically making each scene and in some cases shots of the film as a stand-alone short film and releasing them. Only through screening, rewatching and reexamining these segments I had realized that they somehow must come together and morph a singular entity for them to have their full potential exhibited. At first, there were more than 100 short films and I edited and reassembled 40 new editions out of them and only last year they were all housed into one final film.
It was completed in 2020 as part of the 20th anniversary of EFS. Each section of Homo Sapiens Project (200) (2000 – 2020, 490 Minutes, Iran / Ireland) was made under the unique condition of living out a form of subtle therapeutic practice. Collectively they reflect major life-changing events, formalistic mutations and thematic shifts within my filmography. Despite this, they could not find the peace of a satisfactory final shape. Indeed, they are about peace, something that rarely (if ever) exists within my work. But now, after twenty years of roaming the subconscious, they have come to rest in a permanent retirement in one world, one very personal floating planet. After all, how much and to what degree can the material be pushed to formal extremes through constant re-editing, re-contextualising and experimentation? Extremes are fascinating limits and conditions, but is it worth causing these short films to suffer under such harsh circumstances forever? Perhaps yes, perhaps no! A filmmaker only seeks but never provides answers. A catharsis might be caused through an ultimate fatal final act but even this will never entirely allow surrender to the ever-increasing incompatibility between life and cinema.
79_I am planning to make a series of mysterious landscape films as part of my Homo Sapiens Project containing mainly nature, ghostly blurred human figures and eerie soundscapes. I want to go back to my origins as a photographer and explore/exploit the solitude of creative conditions in travelling. These films will be somehow structural but not as cut and dried as everyone thinks about the landscape cinema. I want to suffuse them with horror and science-fiction genre in a very subtle and invisible way. Years ago, I experimented with such notions in photography with 35mm format, and I did countless tests and trials. Here are four examples and rough ideas that I have in mind. I took these photos between 1998-2005.
80_Sometimes if you watch many films, especially over a short period, they come and go; you go from beginning to end and one hour later they are already drowned in the swamp of images you digest every day. You gain nothing; you lose nothing; you watch them because they need to be watched. But suddenly out of this gas or mirage of cinema you experience a film that imprints itself on you forever. Rather than wiping clean all of these other films, it sometimes uses their sunken images, resurrecting them, altering their DNA in a very strange and mysterious manner. Perhaps I could call it ‘buying time’, activating a part of the brain that seems to raise these other films up from the depths like sunken vessels and showing through a ‘new’ (or re-vitalised) way of thinking that these films weren’t all so mundane; a filmmaker that animates you to see other films from other filmmakers differently and to access cinema again unfazed and restored. A filmmaker such as this will grant you a little more time to live and let death linger, not by much, but it’s enough.
This is one idea I have explored throughout my ongoing Homo Sapiens Project. As for how much I executed this idea successfully, it is beyond my comprehension.
My entire catalogue of Homo Sapiens Project is available to rent in twenty-one blocks of ten films each. So far, I completed 200 instalments that vary from 1 to 490 minutes in duration. I look HSP as a laboratory for experimenting with cinematic forms.
81_Since 2008 I have focused on feature projects conceiving and producing more than 30 underground feature-length films, of which many of them were entirely zero-budget and five low-budget productions funded by the Arts Council of Ireland.
82_I have been a prolific filmmaker for two decades seamlessly for three crucial reasons: To achieve a certain complex cinematic technical efficiency. To execute several key ideas concerning the craft of filmmaking which could only be possible within a high rate of production. Filmmaking as parallel to life and a parallel life.
I believe I have achieved what I set out to do. My life is changing drastically and so as my films. The puzzle with making extremely personal or autobiographical films is the possibility of out-of-body experiences first and foremost for the author and later on for the audience.
This description perhaps provides a scientific means for the subject: out-of-body experiences are characterized by a location of the self (or one’s centre of awareness) outside one’s body, an impression of seeing the world from an elevated extracorporeal perspective and a perception of seeing one’s own body from this perspective. They are striking phenomena because they challenge the experienced spatial unity of self and body or the experience of a real me that lives in one’s body and is the subject of experience and action.
Now in the realm of cinema if I want to articulate the same phenomena it is much more complex and yet a necessity for my survival. For example, very recently I was deeply affected by an experience with another person and I decided how I can poetically look at my life again as an out-of-body experience to create a film. After some time thinking about it I realized that I couldn’t and there is no option but to abandon and abort the project because there is not enough for me to create.
It is time for me to make my films in peace and harmony. Is creation a chaotic agony though? Yes.
83_Ever since I finished my latest feature film, ‘Luminous Void: Docudrama’, last year, I have been thinking nonstop about this notion: what has left for me to give birth to? Where can I go next in terms of creation?
I have spent an unusual period of extremely prolific twenty years with an insane rate of one-person army production of experimental cinema. It nearly killed me, but I survived and forced myself to change in many ways. Does not matter! We all are doing our best. I am no exception.
There is a scene in Godard’s Histoire(s) du cinéma (1989–1999) which is extraordinary. It quotes Rike “Where I create is where I am true.” And adds, “but man’s true condition is to think with his hands.”
Creation in art is real bafflement. I come to realize that art is nothing, really. It’s not a thing whatsoever. Not crucial or necessary. Anything that is needed, vital, urgent and essential to act upon is “information” and not art. Which if you think about it is the most misunderstood concept of all time? Information carries you to a certain point, whereas art mystifies if ever has any function which I doubt except the mystification itself about the miracles/vulgarities of living with yourself, the others and nature/cosmos.
Where I create is where I am true, but this could expand to forever, and it’s problematic. This notion of “where” is exceptionally challenging. I want to get closer, with whatever cinema I have left in me to the elixir of mortality. I love death, violence and peace all at the same time!
85_Homo Sapiens Project (HSP): “not a life filmed, but filmmaking as parallel to life, and a parallel life”.
86_When we view a film and experiencing cinema, are we ‘watching’ or ‘doing’?
Jacques Rancière argues the spectator emerges as a paradoxical figure in critical thought. Although the spectator is condemned as the ignorant and merely passive voyeur of seductive images there is no art or theatre without her. The passive spectator who takes pleasure in images while ignoring their production and the reality they conceal is taken to represent the betrayal of art’s political efficacy and to display her own alienation and ‘self-dispossession’. The inactive spectator is supposed to vanish with the abolition of art and theatre as spectacle and the restoration of its essence as a ‘living community’. However, in Rancière’s defence of the status of the spectator, the oppositions and equivalences that structure the critique of the spectator and of theatre are in reality relations of inequality, domination and subjection. Rancière makes the point that theorists can suppose that what the spectator feels or understands will be what was intended for her by the artist. The emancipation of the spectator might begin with the realisation that viewing actively transforms and interprets its objects; what she sees, feels and understands from the performance is not necessarily what the artist thinks she must.
I have always wondered, the artist and audience are in fact one ‘entity/unit/being’ but separated/estranged from the moment of birth?
87_Someone while ago asked a few questions about my filmmaking practises and I decided to share them bit by bit on social media:
As a filmmaker whose films centre around the notion of ambiguity and permanent exile, do you actively try to escape a single enduring identity for yourself? How would your friends describe you?
I never escape my identity. I designed and constructed it from scratch. From the ashes of nothingness to who I am now – which still amounts to nothing, and I want it that way. I am very much influenced by artists who have invented and re-invented their identity and personas many times in their careers. Like them, I also prefer to be in a constant state of mutation and scepticism. I am never sure of anything, including my identity and every other quality I possess. Therefore, my work is perhaps seeking a catharsis which hasn’t happened yet; and once it happens, I would stop making films. I’d have no more motivation.
88_Someone while ago asked a few questions about my filmmaking practises and I decided to share them bit by bit on social media. I hope they will be helpful:
What are some of the earliest films you remember watching at the cinema, and which particular film made you want to pursue filmmaking?
For me, it is a tough question. For a cinephile, it is almost impossible to answer such questions simply because we tend to be totalitarian. I know it’s a strange word to use here, but I think it is the truth. For a cinephile, every single film that she or he has watched in the past plays a vital role in forming their taste and ideas about the seventh art. To make it a bit more fun, I can name a series of elements: Luchino Visconti, Sergio Leone, Andrei Tarkovsky, Martin Scorsese, Ray Harryhausen, horror and action films of the 70s and 80s, 70s and 80s anime and Japanese animation. Apart from these, there was a considerable amount of cinema I consumed, which at the time I had no idea about. I found out what it was later on and studied it more.
89_Someone while ago asked a few questions about my filmmaking practises and I decided to share them bit by bit on social media. I hope they will be helpful:
It can be said that your films are an attempt to see the world as an alien might. Do you believe in extraterrestrial life? How do you envision it would be?
I believe in nothing. Believing in something creates boundaries and rules around that notion, which is desirable for many people. I am not even an absurdist or nihilist. I merely want to be on the move and in a constant state of mutation until it consumes and ends me. And precisely because of this attitude towards life, I was able to trigger my imagination to the extreme level that made it possible to make my films.
90_Someone while ago asked a few questions about my filmmaking practises and I decided to share them bit by bit on social media. I hope they will be helpful:
Do you have days where you don’t feel motivated to pick up the camera? What do you do instead?
There are many days that I don’t pick up a camera or don’t record anything whatsoever. I am getting older, and as I grow old obviously, I am slowing down a bit. When I was younger, I gathered and shot material frantically. I have put almost everything I recorded into my feature films or the Homo Sapiens Project. Now I have a different attitude towards cinema; I only record intensively over a period of time and try to live with the material before editing it. As for being unmotivated, I’ve never experienced it in my life. I am always driven, moved or obsessed by something, someone or a subject. Everything I do is related to my work, whether I am recording audiovisual material, writing texts, watching films and/or simply interacting with people. So I believe the artistic life, most of the time, is about absorbing ideas, concepts and themes, as well as refining your craft skills and techniques.
91_I never write whatsoever. My films are not an illustration. Sometimes I think about a series of memories that I have from past experiences. They are bitter and sweet fragments of my life; continually pulsing and flickering in front of my eyes and waiting to be resurrected.
Most days, I think about the dreams and nightmares that I had the night before. I usually write them down digitally in my documents so as to not forget them. They are incredibly feverish, violent and aggressive beyond belief: a parallel world. Sometimes I simply think and observe my daily life and everyday living conditions, in society, with friends and family and such. I essentially scan my life and analyze the data continuously like a computer made out of flesh and a nervous system. I watch my life. It took me twenty years to realize that when I want to make films, I don’t need any of these three resources or categories. I never have – or will – illustrate, recreate, reconstruct, represent or even re-imagine my movies.
92_The first-ever Experimental Film Society screening took place at this art space which used to be called Hello Operator in Dublin on the 29th of July 2011. 19 short films were shown by 12 filmmakers. Four of the filmmakers were at present and had a Q&A with the audience. It is now closed down and derelict. Since then EFS has organized more than 250 screenings all over the world. 2020 without a doubt is the most crucial, challenging and life-changing year of my life and also Experimental Film Society. It marks the 20th of anniversary of this entity. So much have happened and mutated over the years. Everything feels like a dream and a black hole floating in the void of space. I cannot believe it was over twenty years ago that my friends and I came together and initiated this life-changing experience. On those days, not even in my wildest dreams, I could have Imagined how events would develop and turn to what it is nowadays with EFS. Here’s to the next chapter of cinema, life and our films!
93_It took me many years, in fact, twenty years in the case of Homo Sapiens Project (200) (2000-2020), to fully grasp this Jean-Luc Godard quote, “every film is a documentary of its own making”. This is profoundly authentic on many levels in cinema and the connection it has to your personal life. It technically consumes your being and everything about the filmmaker.
I have always wondered if filmmaking has a therapeutic quality or merely it’s nothing but a self-deceiving delusion and one should not bank on such an idea? Is making art a form of therapy or not? The purpose of art is simply not a therapy of any kind? I am a sceptic person, so I never have definite answers about matters in life, but that does not stop me from contemplating them.
While ago, I formulated my own definition of the still-forming notion of creating:
Art is archaeological excavations of the umbilical cord, between the creator and cosmos (unintelligible act). Art is giving birth to a monstrous child into this world with the everlasting feelings of regret, adoration and the ego- ouroboros dynamic between the poles of love and despise. Art is catharsis, an incomprehensible ultimate act.
According to Araki Keiko, “Maybe young people are making films to cure themselves. They are not thinking about film, they are thinking about themselves. Maybe this is why their films are terrible.”
It is a very thought-provoking thought and idea. I want to invest time, digest and think about it.
94_Going through my archives, I just discovered that there is a short 22 minutes documentary made by the Italian scholar, David Brancaleone, about some of my early short films in 2011. Strange and peculiar looking at the film and how much things have changed over the years. But some key elements in my thinking behind cinema remains the same while others are mutating drastically. Those short films were absorbed and became part of the Homo Sapiens Project (200). This eight-hour experimental feature is constituted from short film experiments made between 2000 to 2010, which is available on video on demand. Here are some screen grabs from the documentary!
95_Recently l have been working on my archives of twenty years of work. These include unfinished films, works in progress, film ideas as texts, poetry, short stories, 35mm photographs and audio recordings. I have gathered a massive amount of material over the years, and now I have just begun to bring them back to life in a cinematic form.
One of the most crucial aspects of this operation is transforming my entire forty no-budget short films that I produced between 2000 – 2010 in Iran and Ireland into the 200th instalment of my Homo Sapiens Project. I will release an extensive statement upon the release of the completed film explaining the reasons behind this filmography defining decision. But in short, those films will no longer exist and will only be available as one unit as part of my ongoing Homo Sapiens Project. 2020 marks the twentieth anniversary of Experimental Film Society, and I will release the film as part of this event. Watch this space! Onwards.
96_I never enjoy or get satisfaction from shooting my films. I look at it like military service; you must get it done in order to move on with your life. The production stage is very literal and un-poetic for me. It is as if you are still struggling to divorce yourself from reality but many forces, including your own psyche, want you to maintain your dysfunctional relationship with it at all costs. In the type of filmmaking I do, this stage also functions as a substitute for writing a screenplay – the film conceives itself through its ultimate audiovisual sensory nature.
97_Between 2007 and 2012 in Ireland, I stopped taking photographs in analogue format and started to employ DSLR cameras as my primary tool for photography. I took many stills within those years but was never happy with the result whatsoever. Somehow the result was not satisfactory, and subsequently, I decided to recycle all those material I had accumulated into a feature-length film entitled ‘Structures, Machines, Apparatus and Manufacturing Processes (2012)’. In doing so, I had shot some additional scenes in Iran with miniDV and combined them all together in an extremely formal approach.
“As in a number of his recent films, Rashidi uses images accumulated over the years to explore memory and cinematic form. In this case, he creates an elaborate and haunting montage that mainly interrogates still images.”
98_The Connection Between Believes, Imagination and Cinema. I believe in nothing. Believing in something creates boundaries and rules around that notion, which is desirable for many people. I am not even an absurdist or nihilist. I merely want to be on the move and in a constant state of mutation until it consumes and ends me. And precisely because of this attitude towards life, I was able to trigger my imagination to the extreme level that made it possible to make my films. For example, extraterrestrial life and its possibilities were perhaps the most exciting and maybe even promising aspect I have so far discovered about our existence. Just one minute thinking about this subject (cosmos) fuels me with hours of ideas and energy to work; therefore, I am very close to it philosophically. Politically speaking, I am an Iranian immigrant living in Europe.
99_I refuse to have any information and messages. I want my images and sounds to be the only possible outcome of all the images and sounds in existence within my ability. Hence they are unique and can happen singularly one time for each film (with your picture, with you–then a revelation). The film is the film itself. The audiovisual is the idea itself and not the other way around.
100_I think cinema is the ultimate perverse art not because of the subjects it is conveying but the mechanism of how perversion is constituted. For instance, here is one example from In a Year with 13 Moons (Rainer Werner Fassbinder Fassbinder, 1978).
101_Recently I was trying to explain to an emerging artist about why I create Cinema?
Whatever I have done in filmmaking has and will always be about Cinema itself, and of course my intimate life, I surrender to nothing outside of these concepts. It took me over a decade or so to fully realise that it was not just a refusal to tell stories using Cinema as a tool, but perhaps a near-total lacking that capacity in me, to begin with. Once I came to this conclusion, everything became so much more vivid. I am genuinely fascinated and perhaps hypnotised by this utterly mysterious dream-Kino-apparatus that functions as a very technical, industrial and dangerous machine.
I always gravitated toward cinephilia, while at the same time, I have always been a capable technician, so these two elements are enough for me to make my films. I knew in advance that this type of filmmaking would always marginalise a person, but even that suits me fine, just because I cannot tolerate the vast majority of social life.
102_This year I will be forty years old. I have devoted the past 22 years of my life wholeheartedly to cinema and filmmaking without a single day of omission. I have been operating thoroughly independently and autonomously to attain full creative freedom, which I have achieved. However, this freedom has a price which is extreme financial precariousness and mental pressure.
Since two years ago, I have taken care of myself both physically and mentally, and I feel massively better and healthier than before. The biggest lesson I have learned is you must demand and claim the respect and appreciation you deserve; otherwise, no one will hand it to you in a golden tray. In fact, if you are modest and complacent exploiters, racists and conservatives will drain you to death and squash you like a bug when you are done. Developing the ability to decline/reject a situation where it isn’t “artistically” and “financially” (they are hand in hand and interlinked) viable and beneficial is very crucial. Having the courage to say no can improve and enhance you as an artist and a member of society. Remove the words sacrifice, conform and crowd-pleasing from the dictionary of your life as these verbs have lethal and fatal consequences.
For example, here Pasolini explains to the question of “Why did you cast Maria Callas in Medea”, “for the same reason I chose Anatolia as a location. Callas’s face and this area have much in common. Both are timeless, archaic, mythical and mysterious”.
Furthermore, I believe most events (or lack of it) happens in the limbo expanse between faces and landscapes in cinema. So the question remains, how would you fill this gap, if ever?
104_Life, by its extreme vulgarities, cannot match the sheer verisimilitude of cinema. Moreover, it cannot represent itself; it must be realised in the form of imagination. Therefore the invention of cinema was inevitable!
105_Ingmar Bergman once said, “In ‘The Serpent’s Egg,’ I created a Berlin which no one recognized, not even I.” This is a critical component that I believe when creating art and fiction. I think the picture is an abstract and fully delirium film noir set during an early week in November 1923 which was around the time of Adolf Hitler failed Nazis push known as “The Munich Putsch”. Of course, the psychological side of the film is far more exaggerated rather than the factual points, which I think works stunningly. The film was a critical and market failure at the box-office simply because they didn’t understand the sheer genius of this man on a massive scale of the commercial realm. Nevertheless, he already had subverted the consciousness of cinema which you can see the traces of it in Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Berlin Alexanderplatz (1980). The idiosyncratic cinema exists in isolation of the mind of the filmmaker and no matter how big or small your cast/crew, budget and means of the production is, it always would be a profoundly singular vision of the creator. A unique entity on its own!
108_For most of my life, and principally during the time of my filmmaking career, for some utterly stupid reason, I spent pleasing and providing extra services to people. Some of them who turned out to be completely ungrateful, sociopath and most of all invisible exploitatory entities like a leech packaged as a fake friend (and some of them, of course, remained my dearest friends to this date strong as ever). To be honest, it is a complex issue for me and all my life; I had struggled with it. I don’t want to disclose it here in public too much because I don’t believe in projecting negativity. My friends and people who are familiar with my character, know that I am a straightforward and an extreme person with a massive sense of grim humour and the great tendency to laugh at the absurdity of existence. But I have struggled madly with this complex all my life. It had even doubled by my immigration to Europe. Immigration brings a massive amount of ramification as you feel you are frequently being watched, judged and scrutinised by the society and its members. So I always tried to give more to individuals around me and be generous as I can. I think I am a sympathetic and caring person (I try to be at least). Still, at the same time, I always knew to give too much was my weakness and occasional downfall. Particularly when you realise that the people who you devoted too much of your love and compassion were in it only to exploit and emotionally manipulate you for their benefits. It is only recently that I discovered perhaps it wasn’t the fault of those exploiters to grind me down but myself. I should not have given too much and controlled my emotions, to begin with from the start. Of course, it is life; you learn things (hopefully), and you move on to become more at peace with yourself and your environment. So far, this pandemic has been a phenomenal period of reflection for me (I re-watched a great deal of Ingmar Bergman films too, on top of that). I contemplated deeply about correcting and finetuning some of my attitudes towards complexes such as crowdpleasing and financial decisions for example. I want to look at this period as a renaissance, a rebirth.
109_This is the very reason I absolutely love Ingmar Berman; to approach cinema in the most literal way that ultimately becomes a mysterious personal world of the filmmaker. For example here in Winter Light (1963), he portrays the character reading a letter. We, as the viewer must know the content of the letter somehow by some techniques, the filmmaker, must reveal the content. Usually, in other films and here too (briefly) the character starts to read the letter out loud so we could grasp it. But then, being the master, he would cut directly to the close-up of the actual writer, looking directly at the lens (us) and reciting with her own voice (not reading) the content. This act is simply called anti-illusionary cinema. I believe cinema and art, in general, has got nothing to do with reality whatsoever. You don’t create a mirage but merely a system of images that can be worked out like a puzzle. Yasujiro Ozu was also the same. Once he said “It is easy to show drama in a film, but this is only explanation. A director can really show what he wants without an appeal to the emotions.” Ozu is not giving you the drama you want but giving you the drama he wants, which is the drama of formalism. One must pay attention as these are the essential lessons in filmmaking – how to formulate your style and think about the content next, not the other way around!
Sometimes I think about a series of memories I have from the past experiences. They are bitter and sweet fragments of my life; continually pulsing and flickering in front of my eyes and waiting to resurrect!
Most days, I think about the dreams and nightmares that I had the night before. I usually write them down digitally in my documents to not forget them. They are incredibly feverish, violent and aggressive beyond belief. A parallel world!
Sometimes I simply think and observe my daily life and everyday living conditions. In society, with friends and family and such. I essentially scan my life and analyze the data continuously, like a computer made of flesh and nervous system. I watch my life!
It took me twenty years to realize that, when I want to make films, I don’t need any of these three resources or categories. I never have or will illustrate, recreate, reconstruct, represent or even re-imagine my movies.
I want to make films based on nothing, absolutely nothing, zilch. I want to be the images, sounds and ultimately, Cinema! 111_ I have always refused to believe and accept the fact that the documentary genre in Cinema would be even possible. Directly because as soon as you touch the material, they become heavily subjectified and therefore fictionalised. At what point does a fictional construct collapse back into the documentary reality of the moment in which it is filmed? These questions have always haunted me and played a crucial role in my filmmaking. I make films with an almost documentary approach, using places and people that I encounter and responding to them with an uncommon degree of freedom and spontaneity. I construct my films from the footage I accumulate rather than from a predetermined script, which is also a documentary method. Yet the result is always the creation of a fictional universe. For example, particularly in my 2018 feature-length film, Phantom Islands, I consciously examined the tension between these two apparently opposing categories of filmmaking that seem less and less distinguishable the closer you look at them. Confronted with a landscape or a human being, does filming them or choreographing them in a specific way make them more ‘documentary’? Or is ‘documentary’ simply a category of fiction, a term used to give audiences an indication of the type of film they will watch?
We have to realise the fiction/documentary binary at the heart of Cinema that existed since its inception in 1895. And I want to propose a hypothesis with my films and on the work of other filmmakers that I deeply admire. I suggest the real documentaries are films such as Ingmar Bergman’s The Passion of Anna (1969) because they are the evidence/sources/material of an internal landscape of the mind with no dependability or faithfulness to the reality of our existence.112_ All of us at the Experimental Film Society are engaged with the craft of filmmaking and are filmmakers first and foremost. But we are also animated by a passion for the history of film; our films are constantly interacting with, incorporating, or ingesting the history of film directly or indirectly in a creative and mysterious love affair. Therefore, a platform to discuss this has become necessary. After over twenty years of making and screening films, I realized that I need to explain myself in critical terms solely to survive as an artist. And by ‘survive’, I mean to continue making and screening films. EFS has organically created an underground niche for itself, but the type of work it produces is still fragile and emerging as far as its visibility is concerned. For a long time, I felt the work should speak for itself, but I have seen that frank and, if necessary, controversial discussions around it have only had positive outcomes. Therefore, I have decided to systematically write about what I do in my films, what I think about the cinema in general, and how I feel about the work of others. I have always believed in cinema as a craft, and perceive it as a laboratory of experimentation: tests, trials, and errors. This process should, therefore, be systematically documented and shared with others. If you don’t know the history of film and film criticism, you can’t hope to find your way through its future. Engaging in film history is not only necessary but essential for filmmakers.113_ I rewatched Tsai Ming-Liang’s The Hole (1998) today, after many years. An existential poetic masterpiece about pandemic and virus outbreak. The sheer simplicity and ability of the director to turn ordinary settings into miraculous situations are extraordinary. Nothing is happening in the surface, and yet the turmoil of the hidden undercurrent haunts the film. It’s a lesson for filmmaking for young and old students of cinema.
114_One obsession in Cinema always leads to another and another until it becomes part of nature. Ingmar Bergman made two masterpieces in 1957, first The Seventh Seal and after that Wild Strawberries. What do they have in common? Everything!
115_I rewatched Tsai Ming-Liang’s The Hole (1998) today, after many years. An existential poetic masterpiece about pandemic and virus outbreak. The sheer simplicity and ability of the director to turn ordinary settings into miraculous situations are extraordinary. Nothing is happening in the surface, and yet the turmoil of the hidden undercurrent haunts the film. It’s a lesson for filmmaking for young and old students of cinema.
116_Just watched Variola Vera (1982) and I thought it was brilliant. It is a Yugoslav film directed by Goran Marković shot in several Belgrade hospitals which portrays the 1972 Yugoslav smallpox outbreak. What is fascinating is the constant shift between the dramatic nature of the film and subtle surrealistic horror sequences it conjures up masterfully! More importantly, it examines the deep, disturbing relationship between love, eroticism and death in extreme situations like an outbreak and quarantine. A theme I am also very much obsessed with it. Surprisingly, Erland Josephson also appears in the film, but Rade Serbedzija’s performance is electrifying. Heavily recommended!
117_The puzzle with making extremely personal or autobiographical films is the possibility of out of body experiences first and foremost for the author and later on for the audience.
This description perhaps provides a scientific means for the subject: out-of-body experiences are characterized by a location of the self (or one’s centre of awareness) outside one’s body, an impression of seeing the world from an elevated extracorporeal perspective, and a perception of seeing one’s own body from this perspective. They are striking phenomena because they challenge the experienced spatial unity of self and body—or the experience of a real me that lives in one’s body and is the subject of experience and action.
Now in the realm of cinema, if I want to articulate the same phenomena, it is much more complex and yet a necessity for my survival. For example, very recently I was deeply affected (in a tragical way) by an experience with another person, and I decided how I can poetically look at my life again as an out-of-body experience to create a film. After some time thinking about it, I realized that I simply couldn’t and there is no option but to abandon and abort the project because there is not enough for me to create. Is creation a chaotic agony?
119_In today’s world and the cultural landscape of our time, Cinema no longer needed to be art. It has been almost entirely disarmed from this extraordinary quality. Instead, it is now functioning as a political tool, an activism platform and a medium of awareness. I guess the world needs it to be like this and one must understand and respect.
When you make a film you are engaging with history, yours and that of the medium and at the same time, as a human being and filmmaker I have right to think and practice cinema as a high art form. To employ and deploy imagination, craft and poetical surgery of my existence and my surroundings. This is merely vanishing and dissolving in front of my eyes. We are forgetting what cinema is and can be. I refuse to give up and abandon my position simply because I am not physically and mentally capable of it.
120_I have been making experimental films for the past twenty years, and I have never used the word “blocking” up to now. I’m not kidding. But over the past week, I heard this terminology being used in every single aspect of filmmaking and cinema. Narrative films are all about blocking and nothing else from what I gathered. For those who are not familiar with the term: “Blocking a scene is simply “working out the details of an actor’s moves in relation to the camera.” You can also think of blocking as the choreography of a dance or a ballet: all the elements on the set (actors, extras, vehicles, crew, equipment) should move in perfect harmony with each other.” As for me, I can only make films like Kenneth Anger. Blocking, for me, means this image!
121_It is astonishing how in each culture (between languages) concepts, notions, themes, ideas and subsequently, the meanings generated can be so different. I find it fascinating to see stark differences between two isolated systems of thought and values, and the misunderstandings caused in their collision. When this is transposed to the cinema in the form of theories and hypotheses, it becomes something else once again. Thankfully only the films themselves can save us from darkness, or who knows, perhaps lead us into more tenebrosity.
122_About what cinema is: Robert Bresson expressed in ‘Notes on the Cinematographer’ that cinema is “To translate the invisible wind by the water it sculpts in passing.” Today, I have thought about what I might bring into the table that is simple and not complicated. This is my banal definition of cinema which I believe to be very naive: “Cinema is not a mirror of life but the life of a mirror.” The older I get, the more I enjoy the process of wasting my time thinking about what constitutes cinema.
123_Anyone familiar with my work knows that I use an extensive amount of black screen in my films. I am obsessed with creating these lonely, isolated and vast voids within the structure of my movies. I look at them, perhaps in a philosophical sense, like black holes which they would suck the audience within themselves and maybe there is no way of returning from them. These are the moments where you turn the cinema to the audience and force them to become an ephemeral filmmaker on the spot. They have no choice but to fill the gap some information, an image, a sound or some form of a mental material. I think they are very frightening experiences to go through with and yet exceptionally provocative. The more you try to present the realism and getting close to naturalism, the less effective and hence artistic the product becomes. All art is profoundly fabrication and orchestrated thoughts whether you want it or not and therefore, it is just a matter of how to use these elements in your work. For me, it is fascinating how a filmmaker decides to construct the truth or falseness of reality in her/his films and more importantly so, how does one employ the techniques to execute these ideas?
124_Is love a revolutionary practice, a delusional but necessary urge or simply practicality of living? What do you think?
127_Today, a dear friend of mine was expressing some concerns about the future of his art practice. In response, I tried to formulate some of my old thoughts to provide useful feedback. Perhaps?
Over the past twenty years, I have been working on and developing a very particular type of cinema, which I believe is formal, personal, and radical. From the very first day until this very moment, distributing these films has been tremendously challenging. Fighting the system and forcing yourself into it at the same time is a stupendously frustrating and exhausting act. Thankfully, I could screen these films globally to a modest degree, and the results have always been surprising and encouraging. The audience either loved the movie, and was affected by them, or hated them so much that it made them think and ponder—even in the most negative situations, there was still an interaction. I think this is something worth spending time and energy on because I have never had an indifferent audience.
Now, after all these years, I ask myself how much more I can push this agenda because sometimes it is very tiresome and debilitating. I don’t believe in fighting the system any longer. I think film-making in its own right is a political act, not merely political by choice of topic or theme.
Now, with the sheer volume of films being produced every day and perhaps the vast majority of them being dreadful, the system needs not to be picky, specific, thoughtful, and selective. Whatever it wants is already there and has been produced beforehand. As long as it has a conceptual idea and functions as a cargo of information, it’s acceptable. Nothing is unique. The only thing that matters, like it always was, are the films themselves and the history of the medium. In film-making and within the machine of cinema, only one thing calculates, and it is hard work — every single day. Talent, luck and creativity are not always reliable; you either have it, or you don’t. Now I plan to go in a different direction with my films. Somewhere still unknown but new territory. I am still processing, but being in the unknown is exactly what drives me forward. The fear? Yes. The fear.
128_The Iran–Iraq War began on 22 September 1980 (I was born in 23 December 1980), when Iraq invaded Iran, and it ended on 20 August 1988, when Iran accepted the UN-brokered ceasefire. An estimated 500,000 Iraqi and Iranian soldiers died, in addition to a smaller number of civilians (I think it is far more than that). The United States, Britain, the Soviet Union, France, and most Arab countries provided political and logistic support for Iraq, while Iran was largely isolated. So my generation and I grew up in the war.
Today Trump said the US ready to strike 52 Iranian sites if Tehran attacks. Why? Two reasons, war by nature is a great business, and Trump wants another four years.
Who is paying the ultimate price: you and me!
129_I made my first film entitled “Nucleus’ in January 2000. With this short film, my career as a filmmaker has started. It also gave birth to the Experimental Film Society (EFS). I cannot believe it was exactly twenty years ago that my friends and I came together and initiated this life-changing experience. On those days, not even in my wildest dreams, I could have Imagined how events would develop and turn to what it is nowadays with EFS. In twenty years, I have completed thirty-five features; forty short films; and 199 instalments of a series called Homo Sapiens Project. I travelled and screened these films globally all over the planet. I have never considered myself as an Iranian, Irish, or what have you. I am a citizen of the world and belong everywhere and nowhere at the same time. I want to see the world as much as I can and continue travelling with my films.
The most important lesson I learned from the past two decades is this: in filmmaking, ultra-radicalism is a choice that you must carefully decide upon because it is not merely a way of filmmaking but also a way of living. I destroyed myself to sustain my mind to make cinema. It might sound very fatalistic, but it comes from a profound experience of my living condition. And as always there is no difference between my personal life and my films whatsoever, they are the same.
I have had an opportunity to meet and work with many extraordinary human beings who changed my life for good without any doubt. I made my best friends during those years who I am deeply grateful to have them my life. I owe my life to cinema and people who I love dearly: my beautiful friends!
This year, 2020, is the twentieth anniversary of EFS and I have plans for a series of exciting projects and events to run throughout the whole year. Huge thank you to every single one of you for your support, watching my films and following my activities. Onwards!
130_Sometimes I think about a series of memories that I have from the past experiences. They are bitter and sweet fragments of my life; continually pulsing and flickering in front of my eyes and waiting to resurrect!
Most days, I think about the dreams and nightmares that I had the night before. I usually write them down digitally in my documents to not forget them. They are incredibly feverish, violent and aggressive beyond belief. A parallel world!
Sometimes I simply think and observe my daily life and everyday living conditions. In society, with friends and family and such. I essentially scan my life and analyze the data continuously like a computer made out of flesh and nervous system. I watch my life!
It took me twenty years to realize that, when I want to make films, I don’t need any of these three resources or categories. I never have or will illustrate, recreate, reconstruct, represent or even re-imagine my movies.
I want to make films based on nothing, absolutely nothing, zilch. I want to be the images, sounds and ultimately, Cinema!
131_In late 2017 we published our first book, Luminous Void: Experimental Film Society Documents. Edited by Maximilian Le Cain and myself, it chronicles the history of EFS by compiling a series of essays, interviews and manifestos that set out and explore the ideas that drive and emerge from EFS filmmaking.
Last year I started (very slow-paced / work-in-progress) to work on the second EFS book, which will be my first as a writer. It is entitled “The Art of Phantoms or Ignis Fatuus”. It will take the form of poetic writings and deals with ideas such as what cinema is, the genesis and inception of it and the concept that from the dawn of time we have had cinema within us. It was only awaiting technological advancements to materialise. The book investigates this ancient phenomenon and how it relates to our human condition, survival and the history it generates in us. The ideas are still forming, but I want to maintain a tone of pure fiction rather than factual documentation. A written spectacle, perhaps!
132_I played the leading role as Dr. Baron Von Mertzbach in the upcoming underground feature film, Kino Clinic (2019), by Jann Clavadetscher He brings his trademark combination of intense visual experimentation and impish humour to Kino Clinic, the second part of his self-described Cine-Medical trilogy. Like its predecessor, Kino Hospital (2018), it is an assault on narrative, genre and the sensorium.
133_In my twenty years as a filmmaker, I have had an opportunity to work with some spectacular people. One of them, without a doubt, is James Devereaux. Together we made seven feature-length films, and eight short instalments as part of my Homo Sapiens Project. I always admired actors, and I have developed a fascination with certain actors relationships from cinema history, in particular when a director and an actor develop a close bond and work together across several films. As that trust and friendship develop further over multiple movies, it results in the pair growing together continuously, and the creative process merges into the unconscious.
But recently I was as usual drowning in my own thoughts, and James gave me a piece of advice which was extremely helpful to me. I just wanted to share it with others. Thank you, Oldboy!
“People are unfathomable. But I believe we should not take anything too personally – most of the time, people are not really responding to us; they are responding to something going on inside their minds!”
135_In exploring this process, Phantom Islands includes images that are generally categorised as ‘documentary’: portraits of local people on the islands where the film was shot, images of other visitors and the crew working or relaxing. Then there is ‘fiction’: stylised, melodramatic performances at once conveying and caricaturing extremes of emotion. Both approaches are reactions to the island landscapes that inescapably contain all these figures. But the islands themselves fluctuate between being presented as postcard-clichés and feral sites of exploration and disorientation. This fiction/documentary instability is further heightened by the frequent use of black screen that punctuates many scenes like a camera shutter, constantly reminding the audience that it is watching a film that never stops taking itself apart to put itself back together again. As hypnotic as it is disruptive, Phantom Islands is a documentary on the creation and workings of cinema itself. As such, it repeatedly revisits the fiction/documentary binary at the heart of this art from its very inception in 1895, when the Lumière brothers staged a scene of workers leaving their factory for the camera, making at once the first documentary and the first fiction film.
137_Seeing The Irishman was like experiencing the cinema for the first time. I also remember the first time I saw Rocco and His Brothers, Mirror, Accattone, The Gold Rush, Sherlock Jr. among many others were also like this, being born or rather die and not surviving cinema. The Irishman is a film where you can easily give up filmmaking after seeing it merely because it’s enough for a lifetime. The acting perhaps is among the most significant achievements of art of acting. But above all Martin Scorsese gifted me a film where I’d carry with me for the rest of my life! Thank you, old boys.
138_The more personal, internal, inwards and confessional the film is, the more political it becomes and not the other way around.
139_Over the years, I was told by many film festivals that we would like to show your work, but we don’t have any categories that can include your films. We simply don’t know how to present it and under what circumstances. I never understood or comprehended if it is a curse or a blessing. I literally have no clue whatsoever. As always, I’m very open about my film practice and enjoy sharing them with the public. Onwards!
140_The most enjoyable part in cinema, apart from watching films from the history of the medium, is the actual craft of filmmaking, shooting/gathering the material and editing/montage, both heavily technically. After that, there is a feeling of loss and nostalgia, each film when it’s done is an absolute death, but it behaves as if it is alive. That is why the cinema is all about ghosts and shadows in my view. In this process, if you are lucky, you may find great collaborators/friends, and as a result of this, you don’t have to endure this feeling alone. Everything else is a waste of time for me. Literally, everything! Nothing else is giving me any satisfaction.
141_From 2000 to 2010, I made minimal films. From 2011 to 2019, I made maximal films. From 2020 onwards, I will just make films!
142_My films are already artefacts and ruins of the collective consciousness of the human settlements on the planet earth and the process of evolving, which cinema is part of it. I am glad that in terms of the technological advancement of our civilization; I belong to the category of early pioneers of the digital era in art. What I have done so far and will do until I die will interest to look at and study in the next century, perhaps. Therefore, I gave up to fit in; I am simply too weak to be accepted!
143_Marguerite Duras madly influences me for many reasons, but the most important is this approach he had developed in her films which I find it extraordinary. In my own films, particularly the films I made after 2012, I have deeply experimented with this method that she is describing here but in reverse and entirely on the other side of the spectrum. An Ouroboros regression formula if you like to tap into how far can you go with images and to what extremes!
“I have a theory: I believe that writing is like this: it’s this parallel between the reflection in the mirror, and the object reflected. When one begins to write, there is already an image in the mirror. That is, one has already been taken over the idea, but it has yet to emerge.
So, then we got a sort of simultaneous absence/presence of the actors. The image loses its supremacy, and the spoken word becomes more important. So then the dialogue is no longer between a particular man and woman but rather between their essences.”
144_Ultimate Tragedy: There will be many films that I already know I can never make them in my life, but nevertheless, I tremendously enjoy thinking and picturing them in my head. Because of this I genuinely adore and love Cinema! It is the ultimate tragedy …
145_A text I wrote a few years ago about how the possible presentation of Experimental Film Society movies will be in the future:
Years of curating and screening EFS short film programmes have taught me a great deal about how to present such programmes – and about how not to. One thing which never ceases to astonish me while watching them is how much films made under the EFS umbrella have in common. Although each member is very much a creative individual, the aesthetic and formal similarities between our works seem to indicate the presence of a central nervous system that we are all connected to and which generates a subconscious force that steers us towards a shared but unknown destination.
In a typical EFS programme of, say, ten films by ten filmmakers, each film will have its own structure and its own opening and closing credits. But if the films are well selected, watching them will also be akin to experiencing a single feature with each short taking on the role of a sequence in this longer film. This observation has led me to devise a whole new approach to presenting EFS work, the ‘Carcass Programme’.
These programmes will consist of new assemblages of scenes edited together from the work of EFS members. The scenes might originally come from features, shorts or medium-length films, but they will be compiled to form entirely new hybrid films.
Pieced together like cinematic Frankenstein’s monsters, these morbid creations will feed on the flesh of previous EFS films, simultaneously announcing their death and enacting a potentially limitless series of resurrections. Each one will be specifically created for a single venue or event, be that a festival, gallery or museum presentation, meaning that they will have a very short lifespan. Each one will be named Carcass Programme: (title) and credited to members whose films have been used. This will be the presentation format for EFS programmes. The film is dead, long live the film!
146_Personal Vision: Experimental, avant-garde and underground cinema does not exist anymore within the general discourse of art, and it has gone forever. Thanks to academia, film festivals and curators who removed craft, imagination and the role of creativity to the extremes. Everything now is about conveying information, addressing socio-political issues and activism approach. The most profound question is these are all great but where is the ‘Art of Cinema’? How can one engage with history, yours and that of the medium? Is it even possible anymore? Cinema’s vast experiential capacities are capable of so much more than this and can one engage with cinema on purely sensorial levels?
In response to what I have just written up there, I can only and solely follow my path and vision with the Experimental Film Society. And at the end that is the most political act I can commit to. Even if I am wholly disillusioned, disconnected, detached and rejected during my lifetime, my duty is to stay truthful to my beliefs on an existential and artistic condition of my living years. Uncompromisingly personal work raid my psyche to fuel phantasmagorical reconfigurations of techniques and half-remembered nightmares from cinema history. As I experiment with cinema, I allow it equally to test on me. I aim to create experiential works that chart an uncomfortable territory that is at once uncannily familiar and utterly alien. In evoking possible futures cinema might once have had, my films upset the continuum, rendering my life and the work I create until there is no distinction between them.
147_The most frightening or comforting element in engaging with cinema or art, in general, is to confront ideas that you never thought would become a reality of a kind. For example, I just had a conversation with a friend who deeply affected me in several ways on how we perceive films, how do we digest them and subsequently how do we flush them out of our system. My thoughts are still forming, but I cannot help to think about this quote: “The image of violence. That’s something much easier for me to understand. Violence was born with the history of mankind. It is bound up with the birth and life of humanity. It’s a natural force. There is no need to make any effort about violence. It’s a mere nothing. I’m not afraid of it. I would never be wounded by the thought of violence.” – The Koumiko Mystery (1965) Chris Marker
148_If I had to choose films from only one country (out of all the countries on the planet), it would be Russia* (former Soviet Union Cinema). In my opinion, no other country has endowed the cinema with as much total and poetic imagery as the Russian masters. Images rooted in a deeply pictorial expressionism, imagery that is so violently strong and assured while in other moments serene, vulnerable and disturbed. For me, Russian cinema displays so many characteristics and examples that are as close to the real art of photography as filmmaking has ever been and perhaps will ever be. If a background in photography and a keen interest in the 19th century sit alongside your itinerary, then the great map of Russian cinema lights up across the board. I don’t think the true essence of their cinema has departed from romanticism.
Now with all of this in view, the torment of some haunting desire to make a film hangs over the head of the cinephile, creating an indelible impression that follows them thereafter. You, ultimately behaving like the masochistic creature that you are, happily descend the road hand-in-hand with the torment of cinema, along the way inflicting madness on others due to some sadistic urge to share, and perhaps more so because you react to films in a more satisfactory manner than to life itself. I think that your own films are simply personal letters that must be sent… a one-way love without hope!
*Note: Andrei Tarkovsky, Alexander Sokurov, Sergei Parajanov, Aleksey German, Boris Barnet, Mikhail Kalatozov, Konstantin Lopushansky, Vsevolod Pudovkin, Larisa Shepitko, Alexander Dovzhenko, Sergei Eisenstein, Grigori Kozintsev, Dziga Vertov, Tengiz Abuladze, Elem Klimov, Kira Muratova, Yevgeny Yufit among others!
150_A sincere and straightforward statement by Lav Diaz about the art life. I share these principle and generally think along similar lines. My work demands complete freedom of imagination to summon reality in a sort of seance, to seek out its uncannily incomprehensible nature and to render an impossible perspective on it. Therefore I sell my soul to a universe which only cinema can materialise. This is my struggle, one which hopefully some others might feel the need to share.
“I’m very fatalistic about life. Whatever happens, happens. The imperative for me is that I do my contribution for my people, for my culture. I still want to make films for them. I still want to make films that confront our struggles.” – Lav Diaz
152_Visions and ideas in their original form perhaps spread best in a scenario where the receiver subjected to an atmosphere (which may take hours or days) and notions slowly precipitate and willingly absorbed into the body of the receiver, a process of contagion, therefore, I cannot explain the films I want to make.
In a work like this I feel that sometimes ‘not knowing’ is a very good thing, it puts all of us (the crew) in the same boat and the process of filmmaking becomes a hunt during which we all disintegrate. The audience uncovers this filmic document and begin their investigation, only finding traces of us and so I would hope that they themselves would climb in and perhaps discover that the danger is real. The more you try to express and explain the film, the more shallow and decrepit the film becomes.
153_An utterly fundamental and vigorous statement from a conversation with Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub with Hans Hurch about their adaptation of Kafka’s novel “Amerika.” I think this answer alone highlights the biggest crisis in how radical cinema preserved and tremendously neglected by many film festivals, gate-keepers and programmers. Also, on a human level and coexisting within society it has so much to say:
“These films should also be a school of tolerance. Without irony. Sometimes you even have the duty to be intolerant, but there is also a tolerance of which one has to be capable of practicing, especially as an intellectual. … And tolerant also in the political sense as well as aesthetically. That one accepts disparate forms, forms in sound and image.”
154_Recently, I revisited several of my early feature films. I made these experimental features as a test or trial experiment. The films were assembled from footage I had accumulated over the years, archival footage, found footage and rushes donated to me by my close collaborators.
To be more precise, I didn’t plan on making any of these films, I never thought about them systematically and therefore I never specifically shot any ‘new’ material for them in most cases. In a certain way, these films were made so I would have something to work on, something to occupy my mind and thinking behind cinema. This is an attitude I have kept from the very beginning, to always keep myself busy with the craft of filmmaking. Although I must confess, I didn’t think they would contain so much deeply confessional and private experiences of my life within them. Is it me the creator who has changed drastically or the films themselves are mutating and shape-shifting? Because when I was amid making them, I have no recollection of these themes that now embedded in to the work. How can this be?
155_I have been making films for twenty years now and lived in two continents. One of the inescapable and unavoidable facts I have learned in the past two decades as a professional artist is that your nationality defines every single move you make. Quality and merit of your work, your personality, your character and everything else in your existence comes afterwards once the system renders you through this autocratic biased agenda. We would all do well to remember that our country of birth is arbitrary. I know very well that there is no escape from this fatalism, so that’s that. We live within artificial, human-made boundaries. Where are these borders, and who owns them? Answers only give headaches and create segregation, so no need for them. At the end of the day, when I think about all this, I remind myself that thankfully Cinema is infinite, unknown and still being invented.
156_The biggest downfall of art, and particularly in my hypothesis, Cinema, comes from conclusion, resolution, and understanding. How much should we trust our perception of the external world? The world is a construct we’ve built from patterns our brain has identified from sensory experiences, so to each of us, it is – a subjective reality, based on individual perception and interpretation. Whether there is an overarching ‘reality’ for all of us is quite another matter. When a filmmaker makes a film, he or she presents a reality or universe that is supposedly self-contained and autonomous. The very basic urge to create comes perhaps from ideas such as sharing, disturbing, or destroying. The filmmaker is also an audience of that film, and this makes the whole concept of Cinema a genuinely frightening experience. Simply put: how is it possible to make a film for yourself?
It is, of course, possible. In its genesis, and in the embryonic stage of that film, how much the film will be solidified by mass consumption and how much it will be forgotten by the resistance of restricted, control-freak, and utterly-insecure human settlements is already decided. Basically, looking back into the history of evolution and our position in the cosmos, or perhaps chaos, we can suggest that everything is a phase and nothing can last forever.
Therefore, concepts of conclusion, resolution, and understanding are the methods we might find to prevent mass suicide and mania. The origins of Cinema – an utterly sensory, dreamlike, and the primal human condition (sleep) – can suggest that its very raison d’être is to tap into the morbid nature of derangement. It is straightforward: the creation of films with such a nature will naturally be eradicated by us, the very peculiar species that we are … Nevertheless, the urge will continue.
157_Today, June 1st 2019 marked the 15th anniversary of my emigration from Iran to Ireland. I was 23 years of age when I arrived, and now I am 38, and a tremendous number of life-changing events have occurred in the meantime. However simple the reasons that cause a person to emigrate might initially seem, it inevitably becomes apparent with the time that immigration is a highly complex process that never reaches an endpoint, even if you decide to return to the place you came from initially. Questions of exile and identity, both one’s own identity and that of society itself, confront you every day. Moreover, on an emotional and existential level, it becomes clear that ‘going back where you came from’ is not and will never be really possible. The story of my immigration (and, in fact, my whole adult life) is inextricably linked to my experimental filmmaking and to Experimental Film Society (EFS). From the very first day I arrived in Ireland, in 2004, there was only one crucial question in my head: how do I continue EFS in this new country? My jetlag had not even subsided before I started to work on this notion, and I have doggedly pursued to do so in the 15 years since. In filmmaking, ultra-radicalism is a choice that you must carefully decide upon, because it is not merely a way of filmmaking but also a way of living. We are all exiles.
158_For me, making cinema (or art in general) is about catharsis and abreaction. Artist retreats into her/his alienation until there was nothing but herself/himself through bodily and mentally purging phenomena. I employ, use/abuse or simply take my constitutional pain, chaos and turmoil, and pass it through the medium I refined throughout the years with my personalised craft to relieve myself to exist. This entity is a massive emotional and intellectually charged energy that wanders the world as a spectre, it is no longer you and yet is it the artist in a different parallel universe. So in a way, art has therapeutic qualities, and at the same time, one can never recover from this Ouroboros-like practise. This image of the Ouroboros lies the thought of devouring oneself and turning oneself into a circulatory process which has no beginning or end.
159_Ten stills from my third feature film, ‘Bipedality (2010)’. My movies are almost all wordless, but when I incorporate speech, it is in the form of long monologues or dialogues. Without an expectation, I tend to push whatever style I adapt to its extreme limits (for example like all the features I made with James Devereaux). I look at conversations and speeches as painful studies in how inadequate language is to communicate feelings.
I made Bipedality with an entire cast and crew of three people, and there wasn’t any script or pre-writing planning for it, and all the shots were taken only one time without any rehearsal, but occasionally I gave the actors notes to read in order to provoke certain feelings and then filmed the scene straight away. I shot the three main segments of the film in only three days, but the inserts and pillow shots were taken over a full year in a different part of Ireland. The film is heavily saturated with sound and colour, making use of meditative still photography.
160_Flickering Shutter. I absolutely love when in some of the pre-1970s films you would hear the motor of the giant 35mm cameras such as Mitchell Camera etc. Obviously, the attempt of the DOP and sound crew wasn’t proper enough to conceal the sound 100% (especially in the interior scenes), and as a result, you hear the hypnotic flickering sound of the shutter. Contrary to popular belief, I think flaws and defects like these bring us far closer to reality than trying to eliminate any sense of pieces of machinery, apparatuses and equipment. As if we are in the location right at this very moment with the crew and recording these scenes. The more you try to present the realism and getting close to naturalism the less effective and hence artistic the product becomes. All art is profoundly fabrication and orchestrated thoughts whether you want it or not and therefore it is just a matter of how to use these elements in your work. For me, it is fascinating how a filmmaker decides to construct the truth or falseness of reality in her/his films and more importantly so, how does one employ the techniques to execute these ideas!
161_Between 2007 and 2012 in Ireland, I stopped taking photographs in analogue format and started to employ DSLR cameras as my primary tool for photography. I took many stills within those years but was never happy with the result whatsoever. Somehow the result was not satisfactory, and subsequently, I decided to recycle all those material I had accumulated into a feature-length film entitled ‘Structures, Machines, Apparatus and Manufacturing Processes (2012)’. In doing so, I had shot some additional scenes in Iran with miniDV and combined them all together in an extremely formal approach. Synopsis: “As in a number of his recent films, Rashidi uses images accumulated over the years to explore memory and cinematic form. In this case, he creates an elaborate and haunting montage that mainly interrogates still images.”
162_Over the past few days, many respectful and curious individuals and film enthusiasts contacted me and asked about many aspects of my films, philosophy and techniques behind them and such. I always do my best to answer such questions as best as I can and keep a warm contact with people who follow my cinema. Without exception, I explain the queries almost immediately and very attentively. It is a habit I always had and continue to champion. But I see a common thread within many of them, and that is the lack of engagement with the films itself. I am a Cinephile myself and going through a filmography of a filmmaker in a long period of time, is one of my most enjoyable and rewarding experiences in life.
At the same time, I have always been very active in providing ways and methods for people to engage with my films both in virtual space (my website and social media) and also face to face encounters. My sole advice for understanding and discovering my filmography and for that matter any other filmmakers’ films is to simply start watching them in chronological order and do not be afraid of the unknown world of the artist at all. Things may look uncanny, mysterious, ambiguous, hard to comprehend and even nonsense but every journey begins with a single step. Just start to watch the film with your full focus and let the cinema itself guide you throughout this journey!
163_This William Blake quote triggered me to make my 2015 feature film, Ten Years In The Sun: “In the universe, there are things that are known, and things that are unknown, and in between, there are doors.”
The film was one year in production and throughout shooting and editing it drastically mutated and deviated in various ways from its initial idea. In this film, I have taken elements from such genres as science fiction, horror and erotic drama and given them a radically minimalist treatment. I aimed to attain what could be described as a ‘ground zero of drama’ through the systematic removal and breaking down of any narrative structures.
164_In 2012 I shot a feature film, entitled ‘Bard Is a Thing of Dread’, in only three days featuring my brother Reza. It was a challenging and emotional experience for both us because we were dealing with a very personal and private subject matter. Synopsis: “An eerie portrait of a young man locked in emotional limbo, sinking ever deeper into himself. Rashidi employs a combination of monologues and pensive silences where his eye for atmospheric imagery conjures a truly haunting vision of isolation.”
165_Eight screenshots of my 2012 feature film, ‘Indwell Extinction of Hawks in Remoteness’. In 2011, I began to work a series of feature films constructed from the footages I had accumulated in Iran and rendered them to the extreme limits with various re-capturing and telecine techniques into grainy black and white, which emphasized the displacement in time and space this material was charged with internally. Indwell Extinction of Hawks in Remoteness starts as an apparent formal exercise in pulsing visual rhythms and builds into a feverish nightmare retread of home movie footage.
166_“The Poison of Activist Art”. One of the most horrendous, disgusting, appalling and exploitative acts of creating art is to devour the suffering and misery of others, for example, the current refugee crisis. This is particularly so when the art is made in the privileged conditions of a wealthy western society for a privileged first-world audience. Such artists exploit these situations in a way that is deeply underhand, in order to feel safe and content about their indulged and pampered lives. Who owns images of refugees? How can anyone make use of something like this and morally and ethically justify themselves? 99% of today’s activist art uses this inhumane formula. Last night I watched Aki Kaurismäki’s masterpiece The Other Side of Hope (2017) and realised that at least a handful of brilliant artists working today can still address such issues with integrity, intelligence and respect for their viewers and subjects. The latest trend of new art activism is working 100% against this.
167_Shot reverse shot. Sometimes you watch a scene of a film where two people are in a small room and having a dialogue with each other. Most of the shots are filmed with a Tele lens, and everything feels immensely magnified. The camera tilts and pans exceptionally smoothly, and you almost don’t feel it. Shot-after-shot we see close-ups, inserts and occasional exterior cut-aways filmed through the windows where you see blurry edges of the frame. The language is isolated because it is dubbed; all the distracting sound effects were eliminated, and you hear nothing but the voices of actors which is very manufactured as a result. The music softly playing in the undercurrent of the scene and somehow feels detached and ethereal. You look at all this and to be honest, it feels elementary and easy somehow. You start to ponder and think about the structure of this dream machine we call Cinema. Suddenly a great deal of despair and sadness overcome your emotion, and you realise that it is in-fact excruciatingly complex how it functions. It has been done countless times in many years in so many different movies, but somehow one stands out over the others. Why? Why this particular film which uses the Shot reverse shot (or shot/countershot) technique effectively, suddenly superior to the rest! In my entire professional life and within all my films I have struggled to investigate and perhaps comprehend this phenomenon of Cinema. The particular movie I am talking about is Aleksandar Petrović’s Majstor I Margarita (1972) which is an absolute masterpiece.
168_I wrote and shared this a while ago, but I think it is important to post it again only because if you are a filmmaker, the most important act you must do is to protect yourself within the hostile art world and be satisfied with what you achieved by working and struggling hard:
“There is only one resource that can protect you as a filmmaker in the hostile conditions of the film industry (including the arthouse and experimental sectors which can be even more conservative and traditional than the mainstream). This is your filmography. The films that you have made over the years can shield you from the absurdities of this environment and keep you sane.
169_One of the constant concepts and motifs behind all my films: ‘Eros and Thanatos.’
172_While ago, I announced the news about planning to make ‘a series of modest, small, micro-budget, mysterious landscape feature films containing mainly nature, ghostly blurred human figures and eerie soundscapes’. I have been given it some more thoughts and came up with an idea about a trilogy which I still yet to name. For each film, I will be going through my old 35mm photographs, using them as a kind of visual script or an ancient map to resurrect the movie preternaturally. I will surrender to the ideas and feelings that I once had and wholly forgotten during the time I was taking these photos and only will let the hidden instinct buried inside these artefacts to guide me. These photographs snapped between 2000 to 2007 in the Middle East and Europe.
173_With my cinema, I have always tried to convert my aggression, sorrow and anxiety into pain and subsequently transforming this pain into extreme audiovisual sensory experiences. Contrary to popular belief, pain is the most crucial and vital element in any individual entity that exhibits the properties of life such as us humans. With pain, you can reflect upon matters, contemplate and feel the senses. I can not speak on behalf of everyone or anything but it what makes me and my films ‘alive’!
174_In filmmaking and within the machine of Cinema only one thing matters, hard work. Every single day. Talent, luck and creativity are not always reliable you either have it or you don’t. Even if you do it is not bankable. The only thing that counts is labour and maintenance of craft. In my case I completely fetishize the Cinema, sure what have I got to lose?
176_“Hurrah for anarchy! This is the happiest moment of my life.”
177_“Hey you, out there in the cold. Getting lonely, getting old. Can you feel me?”
178_Shoplifters. Sometimes films are not necessarily audiovisual sensory experiences (they don’t offer any images); sometimes they are not about stories and conclusions. Instead, very plainly they pose a very deep fundamental question. A question that many people can relate to and understand. Basically, they are not good films but profoundly effective at the same time. Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Shoplifters (2018) is such a film. It challenges you to think what the meaning of family is? Does a person born inside a family or does that person choose/create one? Any answers are irrelevant here, only the question matters.
Accidentally, today I read a text by Henri Langlois which said “…people intent on triage, who think they have taste, me included, are idiots. One must save everything and buy everything.” This statement is painfully real and essential.
179_Sometimes, murder’s like love.
180_I might have overdone, extremely exaggerated and utterly indulged myself in my upcoming film. It is the most intense film that I have done so far. I have no idea what I created whatsoever, to be honest! These are not images of the actual movie but behind the scenes.
181_I want to bring a mutant-film into this world of ours. Do you want it as your friend?
182_Something is coming on your way. However, what is it? When is it happening? – 2019 “I am everything male and female, light and dark, flesh and spirit.”
183_Something is coming on your way. However, what is it? When is it happening? – “It would be best to live as a ghost anyway…” 2019
184_The Case of Dušan Makavejev. Over the past few days, I have been watching Dušan Makavejev’s films and revisiting them. The radicalism, alternative approaches and thinking behind his cinema are genuinely unmatched and utterly unique. His movies from 1965 beginning with ‘Man is Not a Bird’ to 1974 ‘Sweet Movie’ are absolute masterpieces. Unfortunately, any other films he made beyond ‘Sweet Movie’ (after a seven-year hiatus) had lost their magic and extremism. At the same time, I wonder, what can you make another personal film after a gigantic groundbreaking product like ‘Sweet Movie’? How can one filmmaker deal with such a considerable amount of creative eruption and continue making films after it? This notion also reminded me of Béla Tarr’s The Turin Horse which he has said will be his last. So far, he hasn’t made a film after having a mind-blowing career from 1977 to 2011 and of course never compromised.
How long, under what mental and social conditions and for what motivations outsider-filmmakers can keep on doing work and survive at the same time? When is the right time to stop making, if ever? These questions have always been haunting me, and I still found no answers for them. History of cinema is everything and the most crucial guide for any filmmaker to comprehend (solely for themselves internally) the psychological, practical and existential aspects of filmmaking!
185_During the professional life of an underground/alternative filmmaker, there is an almost inevitable challenge, that is perhaps one of the, most important in their career: rejection. But what does this actually mean? How should one react to it, and what are the ways of dealing with it?
It used to be the case that the studio-system/major-art-organisation were the gatekeepers of cinema, charged with the responsibility of keeping out underground films. Film festivals were a way around that, but now they have become gatekeepers as well. There are exceptions, but for the most part if you don’t know how to play the game, if you’re not connected, or if your movie doesn’t deal with horrific slogans relating to the sociopolitical agenda of the day (which change like fashion trends), your odds of making it on the festival circuit are a lot worse than you may think. Basically, what get screened comes down to the taste of programmers and curators. In my experience, even after many years of submitting, proposing, and dealing with them I still haven’t got the slightest idea what type of films they take in and bring to the silver screen. Naturally and obviously they prefer films that are accessible, less formally challenging, concept being everything, films that have one or more news bulletin-style reflections on societal issues, and some quality that will serve to expand the audience. In the end, it all boil down to the satisfaction of the audience, and one simply cannot programme works that disturb this equilibrium – never. How can you fight against that? The conformist, conservative machine produces too strong a current to swim against. So what can a struggling underground filmmaker do?
186_Progeny. I will continue my tradition of dedicating films until the end. My next film will be dedicated to the great Raúl Ruiz.
187_Does a work of art (in this case FILM) have to comment on socio-political conditions in a direct way? Is it just a tool to address problems?
FILM must raise awareness about social issues, unjust scenarios and the miseries of the world?
Must art be a form of political activism? In this way, it exists for the betterment of human settlements?
Or all of these questions are irrelevant; the film will do all of this in one way or another, directly or indirectly, head-on or obscure?
What do you think?
188_Ultra-Radicalism. I have always been mesmerised by how Cinema functions and what the inner workings of this grand machine are. I am still processing what Cinema is.
I am constantly asked why my films are so far from reality. Why don’t they address the socio-political factors of human societies; I am asked to express how these films comment on our daily lives and how can an audience possibly relate to them. I always respond saying “I don’t know. What do you think?” I have always preferred to explore a different type of dramaturgy.
The idea of fiction in Cinema (and art in general) is something that has always interested and fascinated me. It must be utterly fictitious, 100% fabricated and thoughtfully constructed by the creator.
Due to the nature of Iranian society, which was a product of political conditions, I preferred to function as privately as possible, working entirely in the margins. Furthermore, when I was making films, I could not tolerate any social interaction at all. Later when I moved to Ireland, I found myself in a similar situation. I immediately became an outsider, for an immigrant and tackling a new language, and also for the culture I was pursuing (underground and avant-garde cinema). I had positioned myself twofold into a place of alienation. I included this atmosphere in my work, creating my universe and in a sense constructed a means of surviving this alienation, through cinema. The making of such work was not a choice but perhaps the only way I could survive without going insane. Though this is my fault and my own choice, I look at the films made by my colleagues of Experimental Film Society, and I see similar qualities of an atmosphere. I understand not only several shared preoccupations but also a complimentary response from those working from the outskirts, looking in.
189_It is not merely seeing a district, country, continent or planet from a particular perspective but seeing cinema in that way. Our films are sensory objects and therefore experiencing them from start to finish with an open mind is the most critical factor. There has always been a sense of tension from the commercial remit and the so-called ‘art world’. None of us wants to be an enfant terrible of any kind, and our primary purpose is to make and screen these films on a regular basis.
I genuinely like to turn negativity into a source of positive energy and feed that into my work and other EFS projects. Even if I fail (and there is always a chance that your films are simply failures) I still enjoy working non-stop. In filmmaking, ultra-radicalism is a choice that you must carefully decide upon, because it is not simply a way of filmmaking but also a way of living.
190_Strangeness of Existence. The only way to get to know any auteur filmmaker’s universe is to watch all of his/her films, and at that point, it doesn’t matter if some of them are weaker than others, they all contain very crucial elements of his/her alchemy. Cinema only exists in an entire filmography and not merely as individual films.
Especially, in today’s world, we are bombarded with an innumerable amount of moving images. The world flooded with media, and it is impossible to digest all of these images or even breathe under the weight of such a vast and growing mass. Only by creating work that is unique and entirely personal, deploying alchemistic imagery within a Cinematic context (of which the history is deep, ruthless and oceanic), can we bear down and define ourselves away from any monotonous or repetitious engagement with moving image that seems to stream from all sides. Anything that resembles reality, naturalism and ‘perfection’ is hiding behind a safety-guard, and this is deeply worrying. With an intimate and personal Cinema we can push forward in this seemingly all-encompassing medium and destroy any boundaries or safety mechanisms.
191_Cinema as life and life as cinema. Whatever I have done in filmmaking has and will always be about Cinema itself, and of course my intimate life, I surrender to nothing outside of these concepts. It took me over a decade or so to fully realise that it was not just a refusal to tell stories using Cinema as a tool, but perhaps a near-total lacking that capacity in me, to begin with. Once I came to this conclusion, everything became so much more vivid. I am genuinely fascinated and perhaps hypnotised by this utterly mysterious dream-Kino-apparatus that functions as a very technical, industrial and dangerous machine. Cinema itself is a complete and utter perversion, sorcery and magic, only because you are looking at people, objects, situations and the universe itself, and not just the things you are not supposed to gaze at but the ‘ordinary’ things.
Moreover, when these items are put under the microscope, we see the teeming multitude of bacteria, and to some degree, we infest this material with our secret histories and thoughts. I always gravitated toward cinephilia, while at the same time I have always been a capable technician, so these two elements are enough for me to make my films. I knew in advance that this type of filmmaking would always marginalise a person, but even that suits me fine, just because I cannot tolerate the vast majority of social life.
193_Cinema is an integral part of life, and for me personally is the entire life; we know the world because of cinema.
194_With speech, one is blind. To speak is not to see. With image, one is vision. To film is to imagine. Filming never reveals the reality but imagines it for the first time, always the first time. Cinema is like the eye that sees for the first time, but its function is not sight; it’s the tears that come from it. The endless tears.
195_One of the most critical decisions I have made was never to bring a child into this world. I will know who I have always been and why I made this decision in the future. Up to this point, my history is anonymous. Yet, the most vital capacity of humankind is the ability to give birth and create something unknown. It is the ability to define and construct the future and not let yourself be determined by your past. Hence, my films are being born as I slowly reach the end.
196_One can never truly convey anything to anybody despite the language, intelligence, intuition, and sympathy. The fundamental essence of every thought and feeling remains incommunicable, sealed up in the impenetrable personal vault of the individual soul and body. As a result, our life is a constant search for communication of one sort or another—the refusal to utilize language. To consider the world as sight and sound and not as signs, symbols and narrative structures.
197_A shot-reverse-shot starts with a shot of a character and then cuts to a shot of what or who that character is looking at (the reverse of the angle from the first shot) and finally cuts back to the initial image to show the character’s reaction. But who/what is the character in cinema? What is the character looking at or thinking in a film? Who and what factors decide these characteristics? What is a cut? I have always wanted to make erotic cinema. Not necessarily about the love between human beings, but in a much more universal sense. About the sensuality of the mechanism of the cosmos.
198_There is no single unifying factor connecting the work of filmmakers associated with the Experimental Film Society. Still, in my own personal film practice and methodologies of running EFS, I have always pushed toward the active possibility of catastrophe and the unknowable.
Drawing upon the hypothetical logic of science fiction, horror, occult, pagan, dystopia, and the avant-garde are the enduring presence in many of the works produced by EFS. Cinema is re-articulated as a more heterogeneous space containing all galaxies and forms of life, even ones we can sense but can’t fully comprehend.
199_ When I make films, I always create a mysterious, enigmatic and uncanny version of myself by employing and casting all the actors collectively (actors could be non-human too). Nevertheless, they eventually form the ‘filmmaker’ as a persona within the world of the film. Their presence is not functioning as players but as a substance through which sensory impressions are conveyed or physical forces transmitted. I always aimed to create a philosophical ‘Vanishing Twin’ phenomenon between the audience and myself – one will eventually devour the other.