Kaveh Mazaheri’s Iranian film Retouch has enjoyed a successful film festival run, winning at three Oscar qualifying film festivals, including: Tribeca Film Festival (Best Narrative Short), Palm Springs Shortfest (Best Live Action over 15 Min) and the Krakow Film Festival (Silver Dragon for Best Short Fiction Film).
In the corner of the home, Maryam’s husband does weightlifting. Suddenly, the weight falls on his throat and puts him between life and death. Maryam tries to save him, but she just decides to stop helping and stand and watch her husband’s death…
Director Kaveh Mazaheri was born in Iran. With an interest in cinema, he began writing film criticism for Iranian magazines and after graduating from college created his first short film, Tweezers. To date, he has made five independent short fiction films, and more than twenty documentaries. His recent films include the documentary A Report about Mina and short fiction Retouch.
The film stars Sonia Sanjari as Maryam and Mohammad Ziksari as Siyavash. Retouch, is edited by Pooyan Sholehvar and the cinematography created by Mohammad Reza Jahanpanah.
This exciting short film won Best Narrative Short and The Jury Prize at Tribeca, Best Short Film, the Best Short Fiction Film at Krakow Film Festival, the Best Live Action Short over 15 Minutes at Palm Springs Shortfest, Best Short Fiction Film at Traverse City Film Festival, the Audience Award at Curtas Vila do Conde International Film Festival, and nominated Best Film of the Short Film Competition (Silver St. George) at the Moscow International Film Festival.
To begin with, tell us about your latest film ‘RETOUCH’, what is it about?
RETOUCH is a minimal and somehow complex narration of a woman’s life with name “Maryam”. One day she is going to work, suddenly happens to her husband and put him in life and death. At first, Maryam tries to help him, but at a moment she just discontinues helping and decides to watch him to die.
Where did the idea come from? How did you get involved with the project?
Few years ago, I was watching a video through one of social media, in which a boy put his mobile on a desk in make a film of himself. Then he laid under a barbell trying to lifting it up. The barbell weight seemed 100 KG more or less. Usually when somebody works out, they ask a partner to help them, nobody does it alone, as it can be very dangerous. Any way the boy did it. He lifted the barbell up and down and again tried to lift up but he couldn’t. All these moments were recording by video. That was such a terrible moment, the boy was really about to die. He was yelling under the barbell. After two minutes his struggling, which looked hilarious, he was not able to do anything and there was nobody to help him. After five minutes the video was cut and the boy was safe. I don’t know how he was rescued. This video was spread everywhere. At that time, I thought to myself, such a story which I was watching for five minutes without blinking and turned from a normal situation to a terrible situation and then quickly moved to a hilarious one, can be a great idea for a short film. It was in my mind for some months till I could find the main character. But what make me confident to make the film was finding the ending. I wrote other shots based on the ending like other filmmakers.
Tell us about the cast, who is staring in the film?
The Lead Actress in my film is “Sonia Sanjari” who is a young and talented Iranian actress with an outstanding back ground in theater. Fortunately, after my film’s success in local and international festivals, many film directors have recognized her and now her position as a professional actress is firm. Sonia has astounding eyes can transfer conflicted feelings to the audience. She has a complex role in RETOUCH. She plays role of a woman in film who herself is playing throughout a day. An act in another act, in 20 minutes which is mostly based mimic and face expressions of an actress. We had meetings together talking about the lead actress and atmosphere of the film to be able to achieve a closer conclusion about the lead role. Sonia is very smart, so she could get close to the role in a short time. We didn’t have very specific practice before shooting except the last shot in which the whole atmosphere of the film was supposed to change completely and move from one situation to another quickly. Creating this story is thanks to Sonia and I am happy to have this experience with her. I am sure we will hear about her in other films in near future.
What are your influences as a filmmaker?
In most screenings Retouch has had in festivals in different countries, audience reactions were very the same. In the beginning of the film a hilarious and grotesque situation made audience to smile first, but after few minutes they get nervous and then from the moment they are not able to predict what lead actress wants to do, she decides what the audience like her to do and the film ends. According to many audiences, they liked the movie because there is an ending for a bitter situation. After watching the film, they start to create the beginning of story and there is challenge to judge the ending in their minds. This is the reaction I got from different screenings. I am happy to see, people in different countries have more or less the same feeling about the film. This is the best result I could get and it is done because of all my cast and crew.
What advice would you give to any up-and-coming filmmakers, trying to crack the industry?
Be patient and don’t sell yourself short.
What would you say has been the biggest challenge or barrier throughout your career? How did you overcome it?
Financing and finding a professional producer. In the beginning I found a producer who estimated the cost about 25,000 USD. Before production phase, he was trying to cut the costs and I agreed with him, then he started to remove many facilities we needed in change the cost to 10,000 USD. I knew continuing like this would ruin my film. I made an excuse and told him I would produce this film by myself. I tried a lot to make the budget with many difficulties. I borrowed money from friends and relatives. But still I didn’t have enough money. Anyhow I could finish the film and gave it to Pooyan Sholevar. She is one of the best young editors in Iran who was supporting me in all steps since the beginning. After RETOUCH I made some advertisement films to return a portion of what I had borrowed. When the final version got ready to could receive a fund from Iranian Young Cinema Society (IYCS) with support of Arash Rassafi in order to pay all the costs. I -like many other filmmakers- have to finance the film with many difficulties.
What is the next step for you? Do you have any other films in production?
Recently I have finished a script for a feature film with name “BOTOX” and I am in financing phase for production. There are some similarities between BOTOX and RETOUCH stories and I hope to make it in good production condition with an international producer. I have another short film script named “UNDERNEATH THE PINE “which is based on a story of Three Drops of Blood (by Sadegh Hedayat – a very well know Iranian writer).