Bebe Nodjomi ‘s Iran: A Memory is a found footage, experimental, performative documentary currently featured on the website for the Farhang Foundation 6th Annual Short Film Festival (http://www.farhangfilmfest.org).
Oscillating between New York and Iran, Nodjomi searches for the meaning of home and identity through her father’s documentation of Iran, reflecting on the past that she otherwise could not remember were it not for the medium of film.
Nodjomi was born and raised in New York and has made frequent trips to Iran with her family but has not returned since 2009. She is currently pursuing her Master’s Degree in Film Studies at Columbia University. She plans on writing her Master’s Thesis about Post-Nationalist Iranian Cinema. Below are excerpts from a recent conversation between Bebe Nodjomi and IndependentFilmNow.
Mike Fishman: Bebe, in Iran: A Memory you utilize film footage that your father shot of Iran and of you and your family when you were much younger. Did the idea for your film grow out of that footage or did you have the idea for the film and realized that you could incoprorate the footage to explore your themes?
Bebe Nodjomi: I first began assembling this film for an experimental class back in 2012. I was inspired by a lot of work we were watching by filmmakers who explored their respective heritages. I decided to go and look back at what my father had filmed on your basic homevideo DV camcorder and came across footage of the roads, mountains, family outings, and of course myself as a younger girl. I think looking back at this image of a younger me inspired me to “find myself” and better understand who was in the past when I traveled to Iran and who I am now in New York, having not traveled back since 2009. The addition of my cousins footage came in a year later when I was looking through the completed short and I realized I needed something light to make it more relatable and comedic, however, the dialogue still ties into the general theme of blood shed in Iran.
MF: Is that where the images came from of you painting grass blades red?
BN: Yes, the grass sequence is a continuation of this blood shed in Iran theme. It refers specifically to the 2009 Green Wave Movement that attempted to outcast the fraudulent votes that made Ahmadinejad the president again for four subsequent years. The mini revolution was swiftly kept at bay with harsh violent sanctions from the government and I wanted to portray that as best I could without specifically referring to the event but rather subtextually referencing it in a poetic manner such as painting.
MF: As with most experimental filmmakers you utilize sound to comment and expand upon your images, such as the sound of cars on a highway and judicious use of music and ambient sound. Tell us about your approach to creating the soundscape for this film.
BN: For my soundtrack, I simply kept using snippets of pre-existing sound from the footage I had of Iran and constantly pasted them over various images. In particular I used the sound of cars zooming by to establish a sense of time and disorder, for example when I have the sound of cars passing by while my father dances with my cousin. Originally I had wanted to use a traditional Iranian pop song, but because of copyright issues I decided to use the car sound which perhaps even creates an alienative quality about the moment. I tried my best to use Godard’s sound technique of dropping sound down every now and then to help the viewer truly pay attention to what is happening on screen.
For more information about Bebe Nodjomi, please visit her Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/bebe.nodjomi