Dazed Vision launches Females First, our brand new film strand for emerging women filmmakers, with the premiere of Anahita Ghazvinizadeh’s Cannes award-winning short, Needle. The 25-year-old Iranian-born filmmaker was selected by the Jane Campion to debut our new series with her wry and incisive coming-of-age tale of ear piercing and domestic tragedy. Below the cut, Ghazvinizadeh talks inspiration, gender roles and being compared to Lena Dunham.
Dazed Digital: Where did the inspiration for Needle come from?
Anahita Ghazvinizadeh: It's not exactly autobiographical, but is based on some real life experience: my father is a pharmacist and he did piercing at his drug store. There was some kind of perverse joy for me to look at him working with medical tools and plunging the needle into their ears! On the other hand, I did not get my ears pierced until I was 21. Finally one of my friends took me to a clinic to get my ears pierced around three years ago! The piercer used guns, and it was such a traumatic experience for me to get shot into my ears. I realized that piercing with guns is the method that is used for children in most of the places, and that just sparked some interest in me for developing a plotline for a film.
I immediately realized this is in line with my interest in making metaphorical images or situations of coming of age; I love body modification or role-play and cross-dressing as instances of performance of adulthood in children's life. I started watching a lot of YouTube videos of actual piercing scenes that parents have shot of their children. There was one of these videos in which there was a woman and man at the two sides of the kid, holding guns in their hands, and you could hear the voice of the parents from behind the camera. They were asking the kid if she is stressed or not, and the kid was horrified. It was a brutal scene, the kid was kind of being tortured by this man and woman shooting her with guns and the other man and woman (parents) shooting with their cellphone. So I realized the piercing can work as a metaphor for the parental violence and the painful perception of adulthood and growth; also it is something related to coming of age and becoming sexualized that is a theme that I follow in my works.
DD: You won the Cannes Cinéfondation short competition with Needle, and Jane Campion, one of the judges, compared your work to Lena Dunham. How did that feel?
Anahita Ghazvinizadeh: I couldn't be luckier! Jane Campion is extremely supportive and generous. Being encouraged by her was the main source of confidence for moving to the writing of a feature film, which I'm working on now. I really like Lena Dunham's Tiny Furniture. She is very sharp and creative. I took it as an advice and direction at the same time: I should try to follow the independent, experimental, low-budget while ambitious nature of productions such as Tiny Furniture in the making of my first feature film.
DD: Needle is part of a trilogy with children as the main characters. What fascinates you to the theme of childhood?
Anahita Ghazvinizadeh: I wrote the plotline for When the Kid was a Kid, the short film that I made before Needle, in a creative writing workshop with Shadmehr Rastin in Tehran. I wrote this story in one take in its entirety: about a group of children playing the role of their parents in a game, with the main character being a boy who performs as his single mom. I found myself interested in the themes of children's perception of adulthood before adolescence, their perception and performance of gender roles and the way they cope with and grow within dysfunctional families. These were the recurrent themes of my fictional writing, and they also address my theoretical research around feminist theory, gender theory and transgender studies, queer cinema studies and children studies. There is partially an autobiographical side to my work, but I can't really say I make stories about my past. They are fictions that are being influenced by my personal experiences.
DD: Is it difficult or challenging to direct and work with children and young people?
Anahita Ghazvinizadeh: With all its difficulties, I always find it fascinating. For me the rehearsal process with children is the most joyful part of work. I try to make a close friendship with them, and to rewrite and change the lines and details of the story with their collaboration. One of the main reasons that I keep making work about children and youth is actually because I learn a lot from spending time and making friends with people who are considerably younger (same with older) than me. I like the opportunity of feeling like a child and becoming ageless temporarily while working with young people.