YIDFF 2007 New Asian Currents
Looking Through
An Interview with Maani Petgar (Director)

What You Can See by Gazing into Their Eyes

Q: What type of approach did you take for the project once you decided to film it as a documentary, and not a fictional film?

MP: What I emphasized the most in this documentary is life. More specifically I focused on the fact that humans live to have life. The most important part about that is our eyes. There are differences between cultures when it comes to looking people in the eye during conversations. Iranians don’t just look at people’s eyes when they talk, they STARE into the eyes as they talk. They think that by staring into the eyes they can prevent miscommunication and are able to see the real intent of the one speaking. Needless to say, it is very important to look into people’s eyes when having a conversation. The eye is the window of the heart. Every aspect of a person’s life radiates out through the eyes. That is why I have used the eyes as an important part in my film. A man who went blind in one eye who has had it transplanted from a nine-year-old girl appears in my film. Something more important opened up to him, something that overshadows the fact that he is now able to see because of his new eye. That we are now able to look into his heart is more important than the fact that he can now see.

Q: The film begins with the removal of the lens cap. Was that to emphasize the eyes and their gaze?

MP: Well, in a sense, I wanted to become one with the camera as I got closer to people. There is a scene showing an old person talking about the Gulf War. The reason why we were able to have such an intimate conversation is because the camera was there, and that camera was me. My intended method was to have me, the camera, play a character role in the film. By doing so, I wanted the audience to get a closer understanding of the intricacies and thoughts of the people being filmed. This was only possible because of the camera’s presence. I experienced through this time that by turning the lens toward the person, they can become more lively, or become open. Because of the presence of the camera, I could skip over the time and energy spent to go through the formalities of relationship and catch the essence of their feelings. We were able to understand each other better, and take away misunderstandings. Cameras come with mysterious functions. They can record information to be given to others, but can also look into the heart and project that openly. It is very important that the camera can capture both the outward person and the inner person. In fact, a camera can give you permission to enter into people’s hearts. In Iran they use the same word for both telescopes and cameras. Instead of using the word “camera,” they use a Persian word that means “gives permission to look.” The camera permits us to look at things that are far away. In other words, it brings the far-away things close to us. That is not just true for scenery, but also for people’s hearts. Hearts that seemed to be far away from each other can draw close through the camera.

(Compiled by Yokoyama Sara)

Interviewers: Yokoyama Sara, Kimuro Shiho / Interpreter: Imai Isao / Translator: Paul Mikaelsen
Photography: Hiroya Motoko / Video: Hiroya Motoko / 2007-10-06