Sundance Film Festival 2022
North American Premiere
INTERNATIONAL LIVE ACTION SHORT FILMS
Amitis is a teenage girl who always has an orthodontics headgear and under the pressure of orthodontic treatment. But suddenly she does a strange thing with her friend Sara.
Hi Mohammadreza thank you for talking to The New Current, how have you been holding up during these very strange times?
Although the covid-19 pandemic led to very strange times, I think it gave people the opportunity of being alone with themselves more. For me, because I am constantly occupied with writing and thinking about my ideas, it actually opened new doors.
Has this time offered you any new creative inspiration or opportunities?
This time gave me a chance to think about my ideas and I was able to write my first long film which I hope I can make very soon. The film is about the personal life of an Iranian model, named Diba.
Orthodontics has already had a great festival run being nominated for the Palme d'Or - Best Short Film at Cannes 2021, did you imagine your film would get such incredible recognition and what did this nomination mean to you?
Attending Cannes Film Festival was a dream come true and I think it is a big step for any filmmaker. What made it even more special for me was that I was taking part with a film which I had made completely independently and whose story was personal, narrating a part of my own memories from when I was a teenager.
Congratulations on having your North American Premiere of Orthodontics at Sundance 2022, how does it feel to be part of such an amazing line-up of films?
Sundance Film Festival, with its fearless choices, has always been a favourite of mine. The bad news for me was that it takes place online this year. But we should, indeed, all try, at this time, to take necessary safety measures in order to protect ourselves and the people around us.
Can you tell me a little bit about how Orthodontics came about, what inspired your screenplay?
“Orthodontics” is an important part of my memories. In a big school that contained 500 students, I was the only one who had to wear this weird headgear. On the one hand, my doctor always threatened me that if I don’t wear the gear my teeth would not get fixed and on the other hand, I couldn’t show my face like that because I got ridiculed. It was a strange time.
"I think we, as the people of today, have so many unique characteristics and complexities which can be observed in every aspect of life."
What were some of the biggest challenges you face bringing this film to life?
Since making this film was a new and different experience, ensuring good coordination with the crew and conveying to them what was going on in my mind were my biggest challenges. Dealing with these challenges required numerous rehearsals and time-consuming sessions so that I could achieve that bizarre form of the film I had envisioned. When you want to build a new form, each and every part must work properly. Even if one of these parts is not how it is supposed to be, the form as a whole doesn’t produce the desirable result.
When working on a film like Orthodontics how close do you like to stick to your screenplay, do you allow yourself much flexibility?
Since I wrote the screenplay for “Orthodontics” myself, it gave me the freedom to try new things when rehearsing with the actors and to write new dialogues. And this is in itself a challenge. However, when I look back now, a year after the filming, I realize that I have stayed close to the main structure of the screenplay. At the time of directing many things change too. It often happens that on the day of filming I get new inspirations or come up with new concepts which I use while shooting a scene. For example, I once saw an old game console in the location where we were filming and I kept thinking this adds something to the story. Before I saw that console, Sarah and Amitis were supposed to dance in that scene, but it now starts with that game console. I believe many things come to us on the day of shooting, if we are lucky enough.
Should filmmakers continue to push the boundaries of the stories they want to tell?
As life changes from this day to the next, structures and stories do too. But I think cinema, in particular, has always been inside a language boundary. This does not mean that laws and regulations make films, but sometimes, I think Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” can still be considered an avant-garde movie and these boundaries are timeless. It’s a clear path for the director and is not time-limited.
What would you say has been the most valuable lesson you've taken from making Orthodontics?
While I was making the movie, a lot of producers offered to invest on the film, but all of them wanted to make changes. What was of utmost importance for me was that the final result would be exactly what I wanted it to be, and this was the biggest lesson I learned from making this film: to never back down from what I want so that the final result would be what I really wished for. So I produced it myself.
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
Well, yes. It started when I watched movies as a teenager. Bergman’s films were very inspiring for me. I remember I watched “Fanny and Alexander” when I was sixteen and it had a huge effect on me. There are some things which can only be expressed in the language of cinema, like that feeling I had when I was a teenager which shaped the idea of “Orthodontics”. These are things I can only express in cinema.
Is there any advice you would offer someone wanting to get into filmmaking and how much has your approach to your films changed since your debut film?
Well, listening, looking and more importantly watching movies are always very effective methods. I think we, as the people of today, have so many unique characteristics and complexities which can be observed in every aspect of life. If you look closely at these, you can turn them into films. But eventually, it is the work of imagination which gives shape to what you have taken from life.
Every time I watch my film, I have the same feeling as when I watched it first. Right now I am busy with my next project. The audience’s reaction has always been more important to me and it is exciting for me to receive responses from a big group of audience.
And finally, what do you hope audiences will take away from Orthodontics?
“Orthontics” is a slice of life in today’s Iran told through a strange character, called “Amitis”. I believe the audience is free to enter the film themselves and have their own interpretation.