Festival Alum to Screen at Slamdance

by Rebecca M. Alvin

Mohammad Mohammadian 2In the 2017 edition of the Cape Cod Festival of Arab & Middle Eastern Cinema, we presented a tribute to the late Iranian cinema master Abbas Kiarostami, with a screening of his film Taste of Cherry, preceded by the short film by Mohammad Mohammadian called Only Five Minutes. The film looks at life through the eyes of a blind woman, featuring a black screen and audio only and is dedicated to Mohammadian’s cinematic hero Kiarostami. Mohammadian, a prolific filmmaker living in Iran, is about to present an even shorter work at the prestigious Slamdance Film Festival in Utah next month. The film is called Life and it is only four seconds in length—that’s right, four seconds. Mohammadian took a few minutes to answer questions about the film, which will screen virtually at the Festival February 12 – 25, 2021.

  1. How did you decide on the idea for this film that is so short?
    I remember, I was very upset in the middle of the night because of reviewing past memories, nostalgia for an old friend, my life problems and my age, and after one hour I made this short film. This film is a protest in my world and a drop of my tears: yesterday I was a child and today I am 33 years old. Why do we humans get old? In my world, senescence is a genetic disease and unfortunately everyone in the world is sick. This is not fair. The human lifespan is almost 100 years; why not 1,000 years? And even hundreds of thousands of years? After the age of 30, aging should be stopped. We need medicine and maybe a vaccine. Of course I understand that my thinking about age unfortunately is a joke for some people. If people believe that God created us, God has given us a mind to use, just like feet for walking. We need a global unity to build an aging vaccine. And maybe a smart scientist in a small lab.
  2. What do you hope people will feel after seeing your film?
    I do not care and it does not matter to me—not just this film, for all my films. In my world, cinema is not a restaurant and I am not a chef. Cinema is my personal feelings and thoughts. But one of my dreams is to go to a film festival and watch my film in the cinema. On my resume there are more than 100 international festivals outside of Iran and (if necessary, you can check) I have not even seen one of my films in a cinema once. This is a really bitter story because I have an Iranian passport and it is very difficult to get a visa for Europe and the United States. Unfortunately, my financial situation is very bad.
  3. Who is your cinematic inspiration and why?
    Abbas Kiarostami and Italian cinema because they are like real life. The sincerity and truth of Abbas Kiarostami’s cinema and of Italian cinema amaze me. I get a pure sense of Italian cinema and Abbas Kiarostami. It is very difficult to explain: like the beginning of spring and very good clean weather. Cinema is life, and when I watch Kiarostami’s & Italian films, I find that purity again. These works are the artistic spirit that gave me hope and changed my view of the world.
  4. You have made a few shorts. Are you interested in making longer works as well?
    Most of my ideas for making movies are features. I’ve completed many experimental, documentary, and fiction screenplays. My first feature-length documentary will be completed soon. The title of this film is Abbas Kiarostami and it’s about his biography and movies. He is like a father to me, and unfortunately, he left us too soon. I am proud to be one of Abbas Kiarostami’s students.Y ou may be interested to know that my date of birth is Abbas Kiarostami’s (June 22) and I feel a complex feeling in this history every year, especially after he left us. I’m not a superstitious person, but we have a lot in common in terms of thoughts and feelings, this is a personal opinion. Maybe a common view of life. Unfortunately, I cannot describe it well because it is complex, but very simple.

Mohammad Mohammadian was born on June 22, 1987 in Isfahan, Iran. He is an Iranian film director, screenwriter, editor, producer, photographer, and graphic designer. He became interested in cinema in his teenage years and started his filmmaking education with the Iranian grandmaster of cinema Abbas Kiarostami, whose cinematic style has been an influence. 

FIGHT the Power

FIGHT the Power
Streaming films about Revolution and Rebellion

by Rebecca M. Alvin

The Fourth of July is here! Independence Day brings to mind a lot of things to a lot of different people in America. Barbecues and fireworks for some, Epic beach parties for others, and patriotic displays, wholesome family fun for others. But at its core, Independence Day celebrates a revolution, our revolution against the colonial powers of the British Empire. As many of us here don’t feel like being out and about today, it’s a good time to take a look at films that celebrate the revolutionary spirit via streaming…. Here are five films available to stream right now that do just that.

  1. Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolutionblack_panthers-press-04_09ccaf605d6b895c09b78743804f1fc6.fit-2000w
    Stanley Nelson’s riveting documentary about the Black Panthers offers a portrait that is grounded in reality, showing where the organization succeeded and where it failed. It is both well researched and brilliantly constructed. No American should go without seeing this film. https://www.pbs.org/independentlensEB19741110REVIEWS100809997AR
  2. Lenny
    The battle for freedom of speech in America is one that continues to evolve, always facing new interpretations. Back in the 1960s comedian Lenny Bruce (played by Dustin Hoffman) pushed the limits with his off-color humor, ultimately paying the price for fighting for the First Amendment rights that comedians today take for granted. Too many younger people have no idea who Lenny Bruce was. Bob Fosse’s brilliantly directed biopic is an excellent start. Amazon Primejean-martin-gros-plan
  3. The Battle of Algiers
    This groundbreaking film about the Algerian War against France is one of the most important and influential political films in history. Italian director Gillo Pontecorvo worked with Algerian collaborators, including non-actors who had actually been involved in the guerilla movement in Algeria against France. In the Italian neo-realist tradition The Battle of Algiers is fresh and realistic with dialogue and a cast that come directly from those streets and bring truth to this dramatic film. Made in 1966, just a few years after the War ended, it was banned in France until 1971… naturally. YouTube.com.Marsha_Johnson_Joseph_Ratanski_Sylvia_Rivera_1973_photo_by_Leonard_Fink
  4. The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson
    David France’s documentary follows Victoria Cruz’s efforts to investigate the suspicious death of LGBT activist and trans revolutionary Marsha P. Johnson. It also provides an excellent understanding of the LGBT rights movement in New York City, complete with its own divisions along racial and class divides, thereby offering a more complex view than we usually see. It also features Sylvia Rivera, a complicated but fierce spirit whose work changed people’s lives, even as she herself never overcame her own demons. NetflixHowardZinn
  5. Howard Zinn: You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train
    As many begin to rediscover the insightful writings of historian Howard Zinn, this documentary becomes more and more relevant. Zinn provides an excellent interview about his life and work, including his most important accomplishment—and required reading for all conscious Americans—A People’s History of the United States. Directed by Deb Ellis and Denis Mueller. Kanopy.com (free access through many public and school libraries)

The Premiere of Cape Cod’s Own “Not Quite Late Night”

At 7 p.m, Saturday, April 11th, 16-year-old Cape Cod filmmaker Jaiden van Bork will premiere her new mockumentary, Not Quite Late Night, a film that came together with a limited budget from donations and the hard work of a large cast and crew of teenagers on Cape Cod. Shot last year in various towns on Cape Cod, the film was supposed to have a live premiere, complete with red carpet and more. Alas, the coronavirus has stopped film premieres all over the world. Luckily, Jaiden is premiering the film on youTube tonight. The screening is free, but there will be a virtual tip jar to raise money they would have made at a live screening, which will go towards future film projects.

Check out the trailer:

 

 

She took a few minutes to answer my questions just a few hours before the film’s virtual premiere.

Where did the idea for Not Quite Late Night come from?

Well, I think originally I had just been watching a lot of late night talk shows like Stephen Colbert and stuff. I was just oddly fascinated with the idea of a talk show host, and I decided that was something I wanted to parody. I mean, you have to imagine that someone who does that kind of thing, has to have a MASSIVE fucking ego. And so I started working on this character who was sort of a failure of a talk show host because I thought that would be funny. I think a lot of inspiration also came from my own failures in other creative endeavors and just feeling kind of like nothing was working out. So I think in a way, I wrote Not Quite Late Night as a way to sort of laugh at my own failures.

How long did this project take from when you first wrote the script through completion of the final cut?

So, I actually had the idea back in spring of 2018. I pitched it to my friends Horatio Cordero (who ended up becoming my co-producer) and Wyatt Falk (who stars in the film as Jeffrey Roberts). They were immediately super excited about it, and we essentially started trying to simultaneously write and shoot this web series centered around this character. However, that didn’t really work out—it just wasn’t that funny or anything. So I sorta went back to the drawing board for the next 9 months or so and ended up accidentally writing this 45-page script in the winter of 2019. From there we started bringing on more people, and then we shot everything that summer pretty much. Then Horatio and I ended up working on editing right up until a little over a month ago. So yeah, it’s been a wild ride.

What was the most challenging scene to film and why?

I’m not sure, honestly. I think a lot of this was stuff none of us had ever tried before, so it was hard to just sorta figure out what we were doing. We shot a lot of stuff in the Punkhorn Parklands [in Brewster], though, and that was really difficult because you’re dealing with these uncontrollable natural elements, which are just frustrating.

You were involved in the film as a writer, a director, a producer, and an actor. Which role was the absolute worst, and why?

I think I really hated acting the most. I’m not really a good actor, and I think I’m very self-conscious of my acting ability. So I didn’t really like that. I mean, I think acting is fun and all, but I won’t be casting myself in that many roles in the future.

What do you hope audiences get from watching this film?

Oh jeez… I mean, I think that maybe people will think it’s funny, I guess. Like, if anything, I hope I can maybe numb the pain for someone for like thirty minutes. I’m not gonna pretend like it’s a particularly deep film or anything, but I hope that it can allow anyone who watches to just relax for a minute and accept the absurdity of the world.

What’s your next film project going to be?

I’ve got a few things in the works right now, actually. Going forward, I’m going to be working with a lot of the same people to make new stuff. Specifically, I’ve got a script I’ve written for a new short that I’m going to be working on with Horatio Cordero, who co-produced this film, and Clementine Valtz who I’ve worked with on some other things in the past. So we’re gonna be casting and stuff for that shortly. But I encourage everyone to donate to the sort of “virtual tip jar” we have for Jaiden van Bork Productions because we really love doing this stuff and we just want to keep making shit for people to enjoy–It’s really our passion. But y’know… stay tuned.

Not Quite Late Night premieres Saturday, April 11 at 7 p.m. here on youTube. To contribute to future film projects by Jaiden van Bork, click on the link in the youtube description or click here at any time.