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104 min. Farsi, Pashayi.

Foziye is in her fifties and her husband has disappeared. Oil leaks from her body. Should she hide her special gift? Or cash in on it?
From this oil metaphor, a surreal narrative experiment develops, the portrait of a country in which everything – people, animals, homes – is off-kilter. At one breakfast, the chairs and tables in Foziye’s apartment begin to shake. Part of the roof caves in during the tremor, whose cause remains unclear. The inhabitants of the building go back to their daily routines, but the aftershocks persist. Everybody wants to leave the country, including the Afghan man who helps out in the household but is only passing through. Foziye goes to the German embassy while her daughter obtains illegal passports for herself and her son. A feeling of paranoia emanates from the images. With the Afghan’s help, Foziye and her relatives are able to hide in the countryside. Fear and uncertainty combine with mysterious events and phenomena, leading to a feeling of distrust within a community forced to share a common fate. Chaos will run its course. (Anke Leweke)

Suzan Iravanian was born in Shiraz, Iran in 1985. She holds a B.A. in Art and Architecture from Shiraz University, and also completed an M.A. in Filmmaking at the New York Film Academy in 2009, and an M.A. in Cult Film & Television at Brunel University in 2012. Since 2009, Iravanian has been writing short stories. Besides her work as a writer and filmmaker, she is also a photographer and graphic designer. Nasht is her first feature-length film.

A new realism

‘All circumstances are destined for entropy and when it comes to entropic endings, the scattered events and insignificant characters take the lead’, says an anonymous character to his friend in NASHT, thus ending the journey that the film took us on. 
NASHT is an exploration of the ambiguities that create our everyday reality in Iran. Oil and its associated dynamics lurk behind all our narratives. Oil poisons and transforms our expectations of reality. 
The film probes a new type of realism whose foundations are opaque, surreal and ambiguous. The narrative does not aim to reveal the result of every single encounter between the characters. This also means that scenes and the film itself can end at the threshold of a conclusion and not necessarily at the actual conclusion. (Suzan Iravanian)

Conversation with Suzan Iravanian: “Oil poisons and transforms our perception of reality”

Gabriela Seidel-Hollaender: After several short films and a documentary, NASHT is your first feature-length film. What was your starting point for this project?

Suzan Iravanian: In fact, the film is based on a short story that I wrote for a competition arranged by my tutor in creative writing at Oxford University. The story is about identical twin sisters who have a loose attachment to their family and have an old-fashioned obsession about commerce. I found the twins so interesting as characters that I initially intended to keep both as protagonists, as a kind of a hybrid protagonist. One day, after a quarrel between the sisters over a broken Chinese sculpture, I gave one of them the physical ability to produce oil. I wanted to investigate the family’s reaction to this development and to this commercially viable product, but the broader context was missing and the story was too short. That is why I decided to turn the story into a script for a film that takes place in an unspecified region of Iran. 

The film deals in a broader sense with a number of contemporary social issues such as migration, the general greed for oil and the exploitation of women. What motivated you to use a symbolic approach in the film?

I realised at some point that it is oil, this difficult to acquire commodity, which poisons and transforms our perception of reality. I see NASHT as an exploration of falsified realities within a variable geography and vulnerable society.

The protagonist, Foziyeh, is a woman over 50. Her daughter and sister also play important roles. Why did you decide to centre your film on a woman of this generation? 

You have to consider that the Earth is much older than the oil that was discovered only about 150 years ago. When oil started gaining importance, the Earth had already existed for many, many years. Its existence was not tied to oil from the beginning. An aging female body, which produces oil, can be compared with a country, with a situation. Oil as a commodity does not come from the best and most sophisticated phase in the history of a country. Oil comes from decay, from economic complexities, from complicated interactions and manipulated realities. For me, the protagonists is not someone like Paris Hilton, for instance, who inherited a fortune and is herself increasingly transforming into a commodity. Instead, she is a woman with many possibilities in an unpredictable, complicated situation, which age has put her in.

The film is full of allusions and references. Remarkable are the images of windows in various forms, and also the collapse of a roof, which leaves a gap through which light shines into the building. What is the thought behind these details?

The windows provide points of entry into new conditions, into other spaces and sometimes also into new constructive possibilities. I am referring to Gordon Matta-Clark’s CUTTINGS, to his deliberate cuts through the ceilings and walls of abandoned buildings. You have to imagine an event happening in a specific space. With all these windows and openings, there is the possibility for the event’s narrative to develop into new spaces and conditions. This does not only develop from the inside to the outside, the outside conditions can also penetrate the inside. We live in a context – that of the Middle East – that is poisoned by unpredictable circumstances, but sometimes this creates exceptional possibilities, like when the light shines through the hole, for example.

You work with long takes, a slow pace and a primarily observational approach. How did you develop your visual concept?

I might be able to answer this question by using the example of a landscape. Imagine a very quiet, flat landscape. Nothing happens in this landscape, nothing moves. Such a landscape requires a calm camera and great distance. But as soon as an oil well gushes out, the area suddenly turns into chaos and the slow pace, to which all the elements in the landscape have grown accustomed, changes rapidly. To show this change, it was necessary to depict this motionless plane through long takes and a slow pace. But when it came to depicting the sudden chaos that erupted in this landscape, it was important to represent it through dissonant scenes and to break the narrative down into fragments. The continuity of the somewhat oil-saturated plot had to be broken. 

The film is a co-production between Iran and the Czech Republic. How did this constellation come about and what were the conditions of the production like?

Part of our film’s post-production took place in Prague because one of the production companies as well as one of our producers, Kaveh Farnam, are based there. The special effects were also done by a Czech post-production studio. I live in Shiraz, and unlike in Tehran, which is the main hub of Iranian filmmaking, here it is difficult to find the right equipment and hire a film crew. But I insisted on staying here because I believe that this city and its people offer a lot of opportunities and I just needed the right project make use of them. I started shooting in Shiraz with local crew members, except for my director of photography who is from Lebanon and was living in the US when we started work on NASHT. At the start, we only had a very low budget and there was no producer. A chance encounter with the director and producer Majid Barzegar at a film workshop in Shiraz, and a meeting in Dubai with the Iranian producer Kaveh Farnam, from the Czech production company Europe Media Nest, changed everything. Thanks to Kaveh’s participation, we did parts of the post-production in collaboration with the MagicLab studio in the Czech Republic. Pre-production took a very long time, partly because of the lack of budget and partly because I had to intensively rehearse with my actors for a year, since they were all non-professionals.

In which countries do you plan to distribute the film?

I am thinking of worldwide distribution, but of course that depends on the contracts that we can sign with local and international distributors. A theatrical release in Iran is very important for us, provided we get permission and manage to meet all the necessary conditions for a theatrical release. But I think this will take time and we might also encounter some difficulties along the way. 
(Interview: Gabriela Seidel-Hollaender, January 2019)

Production Kaveh Farnam, Majid Barzegar. Production companies Europe Media Nest (Prague, Czech Republic), Rainy Pictures Production (Teheran, Iran). Written and directed by Suzan Iravanian. Cinematography Ramzi Hibri. Editing Majid Barzegar, Suzan Iravanian. Sound design Amirhossein Ghasemi. Sound Sasan Kave, Sorosh Zahedi. Costumes Keyvan Gharaee Nezhad. Make-up Keyvan Gharaee Nezhad. With Armik Gharibian (Foziye), Ziba Eslamloo (Jale), Hasti Khaledi (Leila), Saeed Saeedy (Saeed), Mohammad Saleh Ghetmiri (Mohammad), Keyvan Gharaee Nezhad (Ahmadshah).

Premiere February 13, 2019, Forum


2009: The 4th Character (4 min.), Hajme shenavar / The Floating Volume (10 min.), Songs from the Layers of Language (20 min.). 2013: Sakhtarhaye napeyda / The Missing Structures (60 min.). 2018: The Hybrids (60 min.). 2019: Nasht / Leakage.

Photo: © Europe Media Nest

Funded by:

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