YIDFF 2005 New Asian Currents
President Mir Qanbar
An Interview with Mohammad Shirvani (Director)

Hope for Iran’s Future

Q: How did you get to know the film’s main character, and how did you come to make this work?

MS: His village is several hundred kilometers from Tehran, where I live, so I didn’t know him directly, but I had a friend introduce me. He was famous as Iran’s oldest university student, more than as a presidential candidate. And when I actually met him and we spoke together, he was a person with great hopes.

Q: I felt that the style of the filming and structure is very unique.

MS: There’s an image that documentaries are just about shooting facts like they are without adding anything, but as an artist, I think it is better if I make changes, provided it improves the film. In fact, I can’t consent to a film that is just rolling the camera and capturing the facts just as they are. The opening scene that shows the film crew arguing with them wasn’t really an argument with Mir Qanbar. Rather, his friend Seifollah started the argument. We included that scene in the beginning as a message to Mir Qanbar. It is a message that we have no intention to misuse you.

Q: Apparently some 2,500 people ran for office in the elections, but why do so many people stand as candidates?

MS: First, this film expresses the desire on the part of the Iranian people for freedom, or democracy. Each and every person in Iran wants to participate in the elections in one way or another. Since the Iranian Revolution, it could be that taking part in the elections is a path for deciding your own fate. This film doesn’t show the results of each person’s efforts. The results might emerge in the future. I recall something Mir Qanbar often said, “even pointless effort is better than silence.”

Q: In Japan young people are completely uninterested in politics, and the voting rate is low. What do you think about this?

MS: I think that Iranians are more interested in politics compared with people in other countries. If they are dissatisfied, they are interested in doing something about it. Even ten-year-olds are interested in politics. Iran has gone through many years of revolution and war, and has no political foundation. Japan has a political base, so even if people aren’t interested, and even if new people are at the helm, politics can take place within the base framework. Iranians don’t know what will happen tomorrow. So a positive way of looking at it is that they can have hope about tomorrow.

Q: At the end of the film, after the happy scene with Mir Qanbar and his wife, there is a scene of him walking alone. That gap left a big impression.

MS: I think films have two kinds of endings. One is very emotional where everyone gets fired up. Another kind of finale can be compared to a ripened fruit. In Persian there is a saying that “burning things will eventually cool down, but ripened things will never be raw again.” So, I wanted the feelings of viewers to become ripened. It is not enough to be on fire. I don’t really like films with 100% happy endings. If you compare life with coffee, it is always bitter, no matter how much sugar you add. I wanted to convey that there are always some bitter aspects to life, no matter how sweet you make it.

(Compiled by Tanno Emi)

Interviewers: Tanno Emi, Sugawara Daisuke / Interpreter: Takada Forugh
Photography: Sato Akari / Video: Yamaguchi Mika / 2005-10-09