FP: Can you give us an example?
Kian Sadighi: Sure. I discovered her love of music, the arts and literature. She was such a romantic at heart. One of her favorite books was Brontes “Wuthering Heights,” so I searched high and low for the Persian cover of that book and included it in the film. The dialogue was elemental and it really helped watching interviews with her family about the conversations they had with Neda during those tumultuous days in Tehran. And they told stories about what kind of a girl she was since her childhood.
There’s one story that stood out for me: since her childhood Neda hated to wear the mandatory headscarf and when she was a young child, at school she campaigned hard not to have to wear it – and she succeeded! Neda had gumption and tenacity since a small age. She hated any kind of injustice and she seemed to be a little stubborn in that she didn’t like to be told what to do. Her mother would recount how Neda had always been a little rebellious. Quite frankly, the more I learned about her, the more I grew to admire her. She really was a force for good. This added a lot of depth to the film.
FP: Please tell us about the cast, and also why you have cast yourself as Neda.
Sadighi: The award-winning famous Iranian actress Mary Apick plays Neda’s mother Hajar Rostami. Mary is famous for being involved with thought provoking films and the famous theater production “Beneath the Veil,” and the up and coming musician Poet Ali, who to my surprise is a very talented actor, he plays Mohammad, Neda’s brother. Vida Irani plays Hoda, and I play Neda.
Having graduated from performing arts school, my first passion has always been acting. When you first set out to research the life of a person, it’s very difficult not to get deeply involved in who they are. You can’t help but get affected. I understood and looked up to her. At the same time on a time line and small budget like this film, it wasn’t realistic to bring another actor on board and to trust them with such a responsibility and with having the same level of understanding of her as I did. Playing somebody like Neda, someone who inspires me, someone who is in my age group, I can identify with her, I admire her on so many levels, and it’s been an honor to be able to play her.
FP: Tell us about the other challenges you faced in making this film.
Kian Sadighi: There were many. As a first time filmmaker, I have a limited budget and I had to wear many hats. I directed it, wrote it, produced it, and also starred in it. I had to find locations, cast the film, get a crew together and I didn’t want this movie just to be about four people in a room, with a camera on a tripod. I really wanted to “up” the production value.
This is also a Persian film with English subtitles, with an American crew and the only people to speak and understand Farsi were the actors. So we not only had to have the script translated into Farsi-English but also into what we call “Penglish” which was Persian with English lettering so that the crew could follow.
In addition, Poet Ali and I only knew first grade Farsi, so with the help of a dialogue coach we spent countless weeks learning the script and a lot of the dialogue for the first time, for authenticity.
One of the biggest challenges of all was that we couldn’t film in Iran. Although a lot of people think we did, which is a great testament to the crew and team who worked on this film, we actually filmed it in Los Angeles. But we couldn’t film something like this in Iran without some kind of retaliation from the government over there. This is not a movie that can happen in a country like Iran, and also the parallels of making this movie and Neda’s story, where here we have this young woman, Neda, standing up for her freedom, and with this film we are demonstrating the lack of that freedom by not being able to film inside Iran.
FP: Your future plans?
ian Sadighi: My goal has been to inspire and educate people with “I Am Neda.” I want this film to reach every corner of the globe, and allow Neda’s voice to live on. I would ultimately like this movie to get into as many festivals as possible to reach as many people as possible. We want the whole world to see this film and eventually I would like to get this film to the 2013 Oscars and when it gets there, then we’ll be satisfied to know that this film will ultimately reach the masses on a wide scale and Neda’s legacy will live on forever.
FP: Any other future projects?
Kian Sadighi: I have another movie in the pipeline. It’s an amazing WWII/Holocaust story that has never really been told. Its confidential right so that’s all I can give away at this stage. But I know audiences will not be disappointed!
FP: Nicole Sadighi, thank you so much for joining Frontpage Interview, and thank you so much for making this film and for being the person that you are — and for shining a light in a world of much darkness.
Our readers should know that “I Am Neda” has won the Remi Special Jury award at WorldFest Houston International Film Festival, and Honorable Mention Award at Los Angeles Movie Awards.
It has been finalist at Cannes American Pavilion for Emerging Filmmakers, USA Film Festival, Montreal World Film Festival, Beverly Hills Film Festival, Free Speech Film Festival, World Music and Independent Film Festival, BeFilm The Underground Film Festival, Arpa International Film Festival and Santa Rosa International Film Festival.
And make sure to visit IAmNeda.com.
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