by Rebecca M. Alvin
In 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.