In a film that's full of paradoxes, one of them comes when a solider who's guarding the women takes one of them to the toilet, the men's toilet, after tying a poster of the Iranian soccer star Ali Karimi over her face. He doesn't want her to be able to read the graffiti on the walls of the toilet, or to hear what the male soccer fans are saying, but after the match, when people are celebrating, women are permitted to mix with men on the street and to read the same graffiti on the street, and men are going to be yelling the same things after a match.
There are paradoxes, because the government has not been able to achieve a complete separation of the sexes across Iranian society. They have said that women are not allowed to go into the sports stadiums because they shouldn't be exposed to half-naked bodies of men, but at the same time, Iranian television, which is government-controlled - I should emphasize that all media is government-controlled - is showing soccer games every night on television. These are not only Iranian games but also games from European countries. The same women can see the same half-naked men up close and in slow motion sometimes on television.
A question about your process. These are non-professionals, and I assume part of your responsibility is to make sure they act well. How much rehearsing do you do, and what sort of problems do you face if you can't rehearse in the same place where you'll be shooting?
We don't do any rehearsals at all, because when you rehearse with an actor, he or she starts to use the actors' demonstration of feelings that takes away from his or her spontaneity and creativity. When we shoot, we always pray that we can get everything in the first take, because we believe the first take offers you the best an actor has to offer, and that's especially the case with a non-actor. The kind of rehearsal you referred to might take place when I'm going through pre-production, and I'm in the process of thinking of what kind of characters, what kind of types I need. Then I just look for the right person to cast, and cast them according to the mental images I have.
When we start working, sometimes I make some shots that are not related to the movie, but I want them to feel comfortable with appearing in front of the camera, and to make them accustomed to the presence of the camera and other filmmaking devices. The main thing for me is to adjust everything else to the type of character that they have and to try to find the right behavior and the right approach as I'm dealing with the cast.
The bans on women going to soccer matches and participating in all sorts of activities draw their basis from religion, or at least the government says the prohibitions do. Yet there are no religious figures and mention of religion anywhere in the film. Why not?
In none of my movies is there any direct reference to what is causing the situation that you see. I never point to the economics, culture, geography or politics. I don't think it's my function as a filmmaker to analyze the situation. I see it as my job to only show the situation, and to present the problems. It's up to the viewer to do their own analysis, and if you want to attribute anything you see in the movie to anything else that's causing it, [people can] make their own interpretation.
I'm not using this approach only because of the censorship. I do it because I don't like the filmmaking in which the filmmaker editorializes everything for the audience and leads them through the narrow pathway and tells them how to see the situation and imposes his thoughts on them. I would like to leave the audience alone to make their own interpretation. Otherwise, I think my movies would become too superficial and one-dimensional. That's the kind of approach you see in commercial movies, when they don't invite their audience to think about the issues. I'm not too crazy about that kind of filmmaking.
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