An Interview with Reza Haeri (Director)
To Look Twice
Q: Of all garments, why are you so drawn to suit jackets?
RH: It’s because in Iran, the jacket is a symbol of the West. Jackets were introduced during a period of government-lead Westernization, and because of this, just as they began to appear, it felt as if the country had changed at once. To give another reason, I consider filmmaking and tailoring to be similar processes. Directors weave films from fragmentary images, just as tailors make clothes by stitching together pieces of cloth.
Q: Watching the film, I felt how garments can represent different eras.
RH: People of the past dress themselves and stand before the camera; that photograph remains. In it we see their clothes, and a history is evoked. Arranging these photographs, we can visually express fashion changes and reconstruct history. When I look at a picture of my grandfather wearing a jacket, I feel as if it somehow doesn’t fit him. That could be because jackets were not originally made to fit Iranians. Staring upon these photographs when editing the film, I felt how alien Westernization is to us. In this work, I endeavor to communicate these things to the audience. I hope they will accept changes in photographed clothing as a visible history of Iran.
Q: What do you think about the relationship between vision and clothing?
RH: In the teachings of Islam, setting eyes on the opposite sex once is permitted, but to look twice is taboo. However, I believe art is born from looking twice. Taking a second look is not the same as just looking. It is to consciously train ones eyes on something beautiful, and from that emerges an opportunity to create art. Idol worship is fundamentally banned in the Islamic world, as is the drawing of large portraits. However, 700 years ago a form known as the “Persian miniature” was developed, and only in its small images were the forms of beautiful women drawn. I also think the desire to write poetry flows from looking at things closely. Looking is a delicate act in our country, and in that cultural tradition, photographs and film suddenly appeared from the outside. As a result, the act of seeing suddenly was separated from our roots. I also wanted to express this idea in this film.
Q: The film is narrated together by a man and a woman, correct?
RH: This also connects with the conscious act of looking twice, but I always have the desire to depict relationships between men and women. However, as no actors appear in this film, I thought I would rely on narrators to perform this. The man and woman that narrate the film are writing letters to one another. By having them read them, I thought I’d tailor this film into a love story.
(Compiled by Oba Maho)
Interviewers: Oba Maho, Nihei Haruka / Interpreter: Takada Forug / Translator: Kyle Hecht
Photography: Tsuchida Shuhei / Video: Umeki Soichi / 2011-10-08