Lerd, interview with Mohammad Rasoulof

Film still of Lerd (A Man of Integrity) © RR

There are directors for whom filmmaking is a constant struggle. Mohammad Rasoulof, arrested in mid-shoot in 2010 with his friend Jafar Panahi, is one of them. Despite that, his last two films arrived in Cannes, transported in secret on a USB key and selected for Un Certain Regard. Bé Omid É Didar picked up the Best Director Prize in 2011. This year, the Iranian presents Lerd (A Man of Integrity), the story of a couple who’ve retired to the countryside but whose land is coveted by a private company.

Please describe your working method and the atmosphere on set.

When I start to shoot the script, for me the selection of cast and crew is the most important element. When I select crew members because of their expertise, I attach equal importance to how well I can communicate with them. This communication has a direct effect on the quality of the project. I think that a great filmmaker draws most pleasure sharing his emotions with his crew. Creating a film is a collaborative process. I belong to that lucky group for whom the filming process is calm and pleasurable. Even when we’ve been shooting in secret and without permit, in a fearful and anxious atmosphere, we’ve tried to react to the fear by humor and optimism.

Please share a few words about your actors.

I wanted the actor who plays Reza to maintain a blank and emotionless look throughout the film. This blankness was a reflection of his past and I knew that, as the film progresses, the viewers will gradually understand it. I didn’t think that his emotional state will change much throughout the film. He had become a loner but his wife Hadis, had to look and feel lively. She was involved in socializing and the everyday social routines. With Reza, we are confronted with an introvert character but his wife has a rather simple genial outlook. Fortunately both actors found their characters quite quickly. Reza found the indifferent look that I was after and Hadis, alongside her extroversion, showed a feminine intelligence which is a product of managing such a situation, without any exaggeration.

What did you learn during the course of making this film?

Combining a realistic environment with one created by CGI was my biggest challenge in this film. From the story writing stage I was worried that these sections may not be representative of my kind of stories and was fearful of them ending up Hollywood style. Anyway, I made my decision and went ahead with them. We had a great team at the Magic Lab in Prague who patiently stayed with me and managed to produce these scenes in a way which fitted in with my story. I think that, to a great extent, my phobia of using special effects melted away.

Can you tell us about your next project?

My next project is the story of two brothers who, due to their beliefs and ideologies, became separated after the Iranian Revolution. They’ve been away from each other for a long time, each in one corner of the world, unaware of each other. One is in Iran and the other in Canada. Now, after three decades, one of them decides to meet his sibling. I’ve been working on this project with my producers since 2012. We’ve had many challenges and I think that we have overcome all of them and hopefully can start shooting towards the end of this year.