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Arsalan Amiri, the Iranian filmmaker who secured two awards at the Venice Film Festival for his debut feature “Zalava,” is currently participating in the Asian Project Market at the Busan International Film Festival with his new project titled “For the Girls of the Tribe.”
The film draws inspiration from a real historical event that occurred in Iran in 1905. It centers around a group of peasants who embark on a mission to rescue two girls among dozens who were kidnapped by rebels. These girls possess critical information about a betrayal, and their testimony is sought before the ruler. However, the ruler declines their testimony, adhering to the tradition that devalues a woman’s testimony to half the worth of a man’s.
Arsalan Amiri explained his motivation for the project, saying, “For hundreds of years before this event and even decades after, this situation has recurred in different parts of the world: a group of women is oppressed, and most of society, the government, and even some other women remain silent or passive due to fear, benefit, or convenience.” He further added, “Today, as a person raised in Middle Eastern culture, I am caught in such a situation. History repeats itself, and any change is costly.”
Amiri’s filmmaking approach involves localizing movie genres and adopting a tragicomedy perspective on social issues. He is drawn to stories set within a historical context, as they possess a sense of fantasy and nostalgia, akin to the tales of our grandmothers that never grow old.
“Maybe I am making this film to calm my conscience regarding the issues in my society. Maybe I will awaken the sleeping conscience of others and their sense of social responsibility by telling a seemingly amusing story,” Amiri reflected.
The project reunites Arsalan Amiri with his “Zalava” producers Ruth Yoshie Linton and Ida Panahandeh, who work with Singapore’s Kingyo Films and Iran’s Evar Film Studio, respectively. Linton expressed her commitment to the project, stating, “What drew me in the most was the fact that a woman’s value was only half of a man’s. It made me want to commit to this new journey with him.”
The trio is also collaborating on another project called “Janava,” which is currently in the scripting stage and is expected to begin production by March 2024.
Regarding the Asian Project Market (APM) at Busan, Linton mentioned, “We are looking forward to introducing our project to fellow industry professionals who could potentially come onboard with us as co-producers, financiers, distributors, and so on. Now more than ever, we need to amplify Iranian voices in film.”
Amiri also discussed the challenges faced by Iranian cinema, stating, “Today, Iranian cinema is fragmented due to the critical condition of Iranian society. Iranian society has been divided by recent political developments, and Iranian cinema is also facing the same with political and ideological conflicts.” He highlighted the importance of finding ways to tell stories with less censorship while maintaining an independent look and style.
Amiri concluded by acknowledging the impact of censorship on Iranian filmmakers, noting that many have emigrated to make films outside the country due to the increasingly strict censorship laws. Despite these challenges, he believes in the limitless cultural boundaries of Iranian cinema and the potential to create more diverse films.
“For the Girls of the Tribe” is budgeted at $1.4 million, with $100,000 already raised for the project.