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An Interview with Ms. Maryam Pirband

December 21, 2017 by  

Persian Heritage

Ms. Pirband won “Best Female Director Award” for short films at the International Film Festival of AOF (Action on Film) 2017 in Las Vegas.

 

Maryam Pirband you are among the top young Iranian women who have moved up the ladder of success. It seems you continue to have an ever trying spirit to achieve the highest goals. Let’s start however with your college education.

 

Thank you for the compliment. After graduating high school I entered college with a major in Business/Economics and earned my BA degree 3.5 years later, and an Associate Degree in English, Business Communications. During this same time I was gainfully employed on the side and taking the national qualification exam to enter civil service I fortunately passed it at top levels. With the score, I was able to be hired by Iran Air. I also started a sub carrier on the side.

 

Where did you begin your study of film?

 

I studied for 3 years in film direction at The Youth Cinema Society and the Center for Young Cinematographers and also entered the field of film and drama. I was assisting and script supervising for Kambusia Partovi.

 

You have extensive experience in acting, script writing and directing television serials and theatre plays, can you expound on that?

 

Over the course of my career in this business I have produced more than 20 titles in short subject, documentary films, television shows, industrial promotions,  TV and screen commercials. Additionally I have been able to publish two books on film script.

I have also had the honor to be present and active in many international film festivals and receive awards for my work. When asked I am always happy to be part of judging panels at many international film festivals in Iran (Salamat, Nahal and Salman Farsi…), and the Documentary Film Festival in Kurdistan (Iraq) and the Action On Film Festival in the U.S.

 

Ms. Pirband, studying your accomplishments and number of your completed works, the first thing that comes to mind is that ‘how many years have you been active in the film industry”?

 

 This is the question that I have often been asked. I have been active in the film and cinema for nine years.

 

Can you tell us, how did you change the direction of your life and carrier so suddenly? This was a huge decision since your position of employment came with job security.

 

Yes. I have a restless nature and spirit which cannot stay in one place. From my childhood, I was trained to be multifunctional. When I was hired at Iran Air, I did not have any free time, because I   was painting freelance painting on the side and was active in professional sports. I was a member of Iran Air Women’s swimming team. Still I remained unsatisfied and restless. Books were my best friend and comfort. I read a lot and still do. I remember how much I wanted to write and put my ideas and complaints on paper. One day I wrote a short story about a woman whose home was burning in a vicious fire but she could not move to save herself. My co-worker, a very nice lady, read my story and was really affected by it. She cried her eyes out on my shoulder and said “you have drawn the picture of my life and pains.”

As a result, I had decided to start writing. Then one day I thought telling the story with pictures would be a lot more interesting. In addition to my regular job, which was very demanding, I pursued my interest in art to the point that I could no longer continue the status quo. I had to cut the chains of government employment and really go for it. There were many recommendations and opinions not to do so, but I finally left my job with 10 years of seniority, opened my wings and flew away.

 

Do you regret that decision?

 

No, not at all. I think I made the right decision. My movement has opened many other doors, and am sometime sorry I did not make the decision earlier. If anything, I am remorseful for not doing it earlier.

 

How did you make so much progress as a newcomer in this field so fast? Your work (Dance with Me) was entered in Cann Festival only four years after starting your career. How do you explain this?

 

I can only say that I had so much excitement in going forward and making progress in my field and creating movies that I could not think of anything else. I make films that tickle my intelligence and sensations to create characters and situations, and let them take over and lead the way. You could say that in many ways and instances, I have been lucky and I hope the lucky streak continues.

Dance with me is a short film with a special narrative technique about a young woman with an unwanted pregnancy who is not officially married to her partner. This makes the situation very complicated in Iranian society, especially since the father of the child is missing in the upheavals of post-election demonstrations in 2008 in Iran. This has made the situation much worse for the young mother to be. So, she has to make the decision to terminate the pregnancy or keep the fatherless child. With either decision, she will face great pain, hardship and problem with the authorities. She seeks the help of a doctor friend who prescribes an abortion pill and recommends for her to not take it when alone and while dancing to a fast beat music after taking it; a dance to kill her baby. She is alone in the last seen dancing to the fast beats wearing new colorful clothes in a very strange mood. She picks up the pill and continues dancing but never actually takes the pill.

 

It is a very interesting subject and you found a very special means of presentation for it. I am told that it has been entered in many film festivals.

 

Yes. This film, like my other works, has been presented in many festivals. The last one was a few months ago in the Black Star Festival in AFRICA.

 

Let’s talk about AOF Film Festival in Las Vegas. When was this festival established?

 

This international film festival was established 13 years ago. Last year, they contacted me to introduce some works from the Iranian film industry. I welcomed the opportunity and suggested to have a separate section for Iranian films since there are so many good films in Iran lately that deserve recognition. After several meetings and my perseverance in the matter, we finally got their agreement. I sent an announcement and invitation to the film industry in Tehran and included a P.O.Box address to collect films from interested producers and directors who wanted to register their works in the festival. Many Iranian film makers registered and sixty films were shown.

Last year, an important event in the festival was the presence of renowned Iranian actor Behrouz Vosoughi. He was at the closing ceremony and was honored as a pioneer in the field. Pouran Derakhshandeh was awarded Best Director and Shahab Hosseini won the Best Actor recognition. Other awards were given for short subject, documentary, animation and experimental films.

This year, for the second time, the same course was continued at the event and again 60 films were chosen and shown. Ms. Gohar Khairandish was awarded Best Actor, Marjan Ashrafizadeh, Best Director, Abbas Zaranji won 1st Director awards, Toweiq Amani won the prize for Best Short Film, Maryam Ketabforoush won for Best Animation and M. R. Asslani won Best Documentary.

 

What is your role in this festival?

 

I am a member of the panel of judges.

 

We found out you were awarded the title of “Best Woman Director” in the international section of the main festival.

 

Yes. I was awarded the prize in the main section of the international festival, in which I did not have any role, for my film “Silence”. When I was called to the podium to receive the award for my short film, I was shocked because I was not prepared for it and did not have any idea that my work was a candidate for the award. I knew that my film was noticed and liked by viewers as well as the festival team, but did not know that it was being considered for an award. Silence was awarded Best Director in it’s first screening at the Iranian National Film Festival and gained universal praise and award in numerous festivals internationally and was shown at the Marina Del Ray Film Festival.

 

I read in the industry news bulletins that you did some dangerous work in making this film?

 

Yes. Many viewers became very excited from the beginning to the end, I have personally witnessed it in the theaters. This is a film about a young mother who is deaf and dumb, and has a very difficult and strange job. She hangs from the façade of tall buildings with a rope and washes windows as she lowers herself.

On one of the days, as she is lowering her platform from floor to floor, noticing different activities on each, she is faced with a bloody confrontation between a man and a woman on the 4th floor. The woman suddenly jumps out of the window and into the arms of the window washer.

The point here is that I played the role of the woman jumping out of the 4th floor window and it was me who did the jumping, not a stunt woman. There was no camera trick and after checking the photos and films behind the seen, everyone was doubly surprised.

 

Did you have any experience as a stunt woman before this film? I have seen some pictures and interviews on the cover of industry magazines from 2008 and 2009 that carried your picture and the title of “First Stunt Woman”. Is the film “Silence” also a step in the same direction?

 

Yes. I joined, with some other girls, the team of the late Payman Abadi stunt team in 2008. On that team, I was the first girl who would do some stunt work, which was part of my acting in my first film “Sayab”, directed by M.A. Sajjadi. But my real interest and heart lay in directing the sections of action films. I was training to that end and became the first Iranian woman to direct action films. In 2008 the movie, P6 (parking#6) started on this road and that film fortunately attracted a lot of attention and enthusiasm.

So no, I am not really after the title of stunt woman, or first or last of anything. I follow the course and direction of work that I enjoy doing in my field. I took part in all stunt exercises until recently and even became a volunteer member of Tehran’s fire department. I love excitement and believe it helps sharpen my sense of creativity. After the sad and painful demise of dear Payman, I exercise repeatedly all I had learned in stunt work from him, and am always proud of being part of his team in the short time that he spent in Iran.

What are you doing presently?

 

I am finishing up writing a script for a new film which is commissioned by a group, which is planning to film it in California. I am also working on a film script that I am planning to direct, which will be made mostly in Los Angeles. Additionally, I am busy writing a collection of short stories that I hope to finish soon.

 

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