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.
For our readers who have not yet seen Retouch, please tell us about the film.
Retouch is the story of a day in the life of an Iranian woman in a clerical position, whose husband suddenly falls in a state between life and death because of an accident before she goes to work. The woman decides not to help her husband and watch him die. She falls in the position that she has to choose between future and past, freedom and captivity.
You have won awards at some very high profile film festivals including Palm Springs and Tribeca, did you attend any and what was the highlight for you?
The answer to this question in a little long. I couldn’t attend either of these two festivals because of the U.S. travel ban on seven countries (later six countries). Tribeca festival had chosen the film a few months before the festival, and the jury liked the film a lot and all the preliminaries had been prepared to attend the festival, but just right before my interview with the U.S embassy, a state of suspension happened because of President Trump’s order, and as a result I couldn’t attend. But during the festival, l I was in touch with the daily, and many of the audience sent me some nice videos showing their interest in the film. They were saying exactly what Iranian audience were saying. Later on in the film’s European and Asian screenings that I attended, I could see that the audience had the same reactions as Iranian audiences. The fact that the film has been understood and got the sympathy of the audience with this variety of culture and language, was the most pleasant point of all these festivals.
You film shares a story with a shocking decision made by the lead character, where did you get the idea to write the script?
Two years ago, I saw a video on Facebook in which a boy had put his cell phone in a place to film himself. Then he laid on the bed, under a barbell. He took a deep breath and moved the barbell up and down. But when he moved it down, he couldn’t move it up anymore. It was a very weird situation. However, he tried there was no way to move the barbell from his throat and he was really about to die. First I got very worried about him. But then as the film went forward and I watched his struggle more in such a stupid situation, it looked funny. That video was only 5 minutes, but full of suspension. At the end, the film cut off and we got to the point that the young boy was saved. It crossed my mind that such a Grotesque situation can be a good idea for a short film. But it took about 1 year to furnish my idea and create the current story of RETOUCH from it.
Where did you find your incredible lead actress Sonia?
In my opinion, Sonia Sanjari is one of the best Iranian young actresses who we will hear from much more in the future. Sonia is a professional theatre actress in Iran, and I was fortunate to know her from years ago, since she and her husband “Karim Lakzadeh” are old friends of mine. In my opinion Sonia’s strong look is her main point. This look and her control on her facial expression and way of talking, allow her to be able to show contradictory and grotesque feelings at the same time to the audience. This ability of Sonia’s, was really compatible with the main theme of the film, Retouch. We had many rehearsal meetings talking about the main character’s characteristics; because this character was very far from her own character. But I believed in her abilities so much that I was sure she could play this role.
Do you enjoy working on films in Iran and would you like to work on an international scale? If so, who would be your dream cast?
I surly enjoy making films in Iran; because that is the place I was raised, I have breath in and I know its people and language, and my identity is from there. But there is no doubt that I would enjoy international projects too. And I don’t have any special idea about the cast, since each project according to its script and its production conditions, needs its own crew.
Are you thinking of making Retouch into a feature?
I think the right length of Retouch is 20 minutes, and not more. But recently with the assistance of one of my friends “Sepinood Najian”, we have written a long feature script, named The Botox, which is similar to Retouch in terms of the structure of the story, but with totally different characters and theme. Even though the story happens in Iran, I am planning to produce it internationally.
Having made drama’s and documentaries, which do you prefer and why?
Drama! Even though making documentaries is always dynamic and attractive. Most of my documentaries are about social issues and people, and I always face fundamental moral and humanities challenges during filming them and the editing process. Making documentaries brings huge responsibilities for me. Recently I have decided to bring the enjoyable points of making documentaries in to dramas; like the discoveries and intuitions at the scenes; so the process of making the film could still be dynamic and challenging for me.
What is next for you?
Making the feature film “The Botox” that I mentioned before.
How do our readers keep in touch with your work?
Through the media. My account is active of the Facebook and Instagram, and I try to respond to all the messages.