With a total budget of 100 euros and a crew of two persons (himself and the actress), Iranian director Farhad Vilkiji filmed in Amsterdam “Leili”, a fiction short film about an immigrant, a young girl and the circumstances between herself, her boyfriend and her family. A compelling cinematic experience awarded by ISA in the season of June. Find out below the Q&A and his video statement for Independent Shorts Awards.
Farhad Vilkiji is a film production designer and film director, born in 1972 in Tehran (Iran). After his graduation, at the Free University of Iran in 1996, he got a job as a film production designer assistant. In 1999 he became an independent film production designer, art director and costume designer. He worked on many Iranian feature films. He also designed some historical serials for TV like “Roozegare Gharib” by director Kianoush Ayari. He was nominated best production designer and costume designer two times at the Iranian ‘House of Cinema Film Festival’ (2006 and 2008). In 2010 he was chosen best film production designer and costume designer for the feature film “Farewell Baghdad” in Iran. In 2009 he migrated to the Netherlands and started to study in the Werkelijkheid in Amsterdam, while he also continued working as a film director and a film production designer. Also, he is a member of the jury in fiction section in Scenecs International Film Festival in The Netherlands.
ISA: What made you decide to make this film?
Farhad Vilkiji: I decided to make this film because its story is about migration and immigrants living in a world in which immigration is one of the core disturbances of human beings. It is a very familiar story for me and for many other people as well.
ISA: What budget did you have and how did it affect the production?
FV: “Leili” is a very low budget film. In fact, it was meant to be so to see how it could be made with a minimum of expenses and facilities. But the film was done and the low budget did not really affect the production.
ISA: How long was the shooting and which were the main challenges on the set?
FV: We did the shooting in 2 days; in 4 sets, each set 4 hours. I must be the only one person with several responsibilities such as being the director, the production designer, and etc, etc…
ISA: Besides the explicit story you tell, what did you want to tell to the audience with “Leili”?
FV: Apart from the direct story in “Leili” what is meant to be told is the modern era and the mental disturbances of the immigrants, the gender or race. Ans it is a story that comes from my own experience in fact.
ISA: How difficult is to to make the audience believe in the characters and feel emotionally linked with a short film?
FV: It was not very difficult because this is a story that many people have experienced. They can be connected to the film easily. I tried to focus on the key points and express it in a tangible form so the audience could be emotionally linked.
ISA: What impact do you expect to have with “Leili”?
FV: I hope it can bring attention to the immigrants and the real situation they experience.
ISA: Are you happy with the final result or would you change something?
FV: I am happy with the result and I would not change it, although I’m going to continue it in two future episodes I am planning to make.
ISA: Have you ever felt any constraint by being an Iranian director? Do you think you can be a different director because you live outside Iran?
FV: It is somehow difficult to find the links and the starting point when you are in the homeland and have not lived long enough in the new place. I think I can be a different director by adding different aspects of my own traditions to my work. Also, as I have experienced a life as an immigrant I might be able to see and express things in a different way.
ISA: What are your overall career goals and what’s next?
FV: The next project is doing the last two episodes of “Leili” and put all together for a feature film. Also, I am working on the script and in the pre-production of a fiction film which will be done soon in Czech Republic.
ISA: What meant for you, as an Iranian filmmaker, to be awarded in Independent Shorts Awards, among so many films, but mainly from USA?
FV: This festival was the first which I sent “Leili” to because personally, I consider it is an important film festival. When my film was shortlisted for the competition with other films on the list, very strong, I thought it would be a difficult contest. So, I am delighted. Based on the culture and tradition of my country, being acknowledged in USA has been very valuable to me. And at the end, I would like to thank all the lovely people who helped me in the production: The songwriter and musician Babak Amin Mobasher, the editor, sound man and colorist Hamid Najafi Rad. Also many thanks to my scriptwriter, Ali Ardalani, and to the actress Leili Novi, who performed Leiliʼs character very well.
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