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Hamid Rahmanian: Interview
by Becky Tan

Iranian director Hamid Rahmanian was one of the more cheerful and enthusiastic young directors bouncing around Grindel cinema. He was in town to show his film Day Break (see page…) which has already shown in 38 festivals, including New York’s TriBeCa and the Sundance festival earlier this year. He had plans to continue possibly to Norway, Turin and Sao Paulo, travelling around the world with just three copies of this new film which was made in an abandoned prison in Iran, and is about revenge and the death sentence, Iranian-style.

In 1994 at the age of 25 he left Iran with a B.S. in design to study at the Pratt Institute, School of Art and Design, in Manhattan/Brooklyn. He earned a Master’s Degree in computer animation and worked for Disney in California before returning to Brooklyn.

Day Break is his first feature film after several successful documentary films. For his early attempts he won the Student Emmy in 1997 and then the Best Cinematography Award and Best American Short. His three documentaries are: Shahbanoo, Sir Alfred of Charles de Gaulle Airport, and Breaking Bread. Shahbanoo isabout an American woman who follows her Iranian husband to Tehran, meets the house-keeper Shahbanoo, and has lengthy discussions about women’s rights and U.S. politics. This could very well be slightly autobiographical considering that Rahmanian’s own wife is an American from Oklahoma.

Sir Alfred of Charles de Gaulle Airport tells about Mehran Karemi Naseri who has lived quite happily in this Parisian airport for more than 12 years. This is possibly a forerunner of the successful The Terminal by Stephan Spielberg. Breaking Bread tells of a dying North Korean immigrant who came to New York and asked that his last meal be prepared by an Iranian – none other than Rahmanian – who was a friend of the Korean’s son.

With so many autobiographical details packed into his films, I wonder how well the director knew the real families involved in the true story of Day Break. This film is popular with American anti-death-penalty groups who show his film as a money-maker event “and make more money than I have so far with this film,” he said.

He was a co-founder of ARTEAST in Brooklyn, NY, a non-profit organization which supports film makers from Arabian countries. He said, “Middle Eastern filmmakers often don’t have good packaging; they need to optimize their websites. These days it’s not fashionable to be a Muslim.” He has friends among all cultures, and says,“How could I be anti-Semite? I live in New York which is half Israeli. Arabs themselves are Semites.” As far as being married to an Ami from the Middle West, he says, “You have to fall in love with the negative parts.”