Filmmaking Focus:

Motlagh: "What is acceptable as a narrative film will truly be challenged"

Sept 25th, 2006 

For Amir Motlagh, a filmmaker living in Southern California, his honesty and commitment to truth are his greatest strengths as a filmmaker. Two of his films have been documentaries while the others “do not stray far from documentary elements.”

When asked to describe his films he answers: “This is the most difficult question always. From the start I have been questioning models of filmmaking. I find it difficult to be able to label exactly what I have been doing. Two of my titles are documentaries but only in the fact that there is no fiction involved. The rest are fictions but never stray far from documentary elements. Some you cannot tell the difference. However, they are not mockumentaries, for I am not mocking anyone. My films are parts realism, poetic realism, no wave, micro wave and postmodern. The birth of the digital camera, and my generation’s affluence with video technologies has truly given birth to assemblage, or collage forms of filmmaking as well. I predict that within 5 years, what is acceptable as a narrative film will truly be challenged. I mean, we take information in random these days, some people cant or don’t have the patience to sit and listen to full stories. It’s almost like the joke about older people and their long drawn out stories. At one time, stories where shared in long linear forms. But it is very hard to follow those threads these days when people are texting each other while watching movies, or scanning the Internet, or hundreds of other things that are changes in common behavior, changes in information gathering, changes in information exchange. And as much as it might be offensive to some, you can’t tell people how to watch a movie, you can’t dictate your ideals. Things happen, things change. Believe it, if we don’t wake up, we will be left behind. Simple as that.”

Amir finished his first film in 2001 and has made six other films since then: Dino Adino, Love@11:47, Still Lover, Pumkin Little [sic], My break ups into a million pieces, Tracing the Edges and his current feature film Whale, which is about “an Iranian-American man who returns to his family’s house after a failed relationship, and without the completion of his debut novel that’s been a work in progress for seven years.” (The trailer for Pumkin Little is available at his website )

Amir is a well-read filmmaker and recommends that any filmmakers go back and read all the books they skipped in high school as well as books by Stella Adler, Stainslavski, Uta Hagen, Harold Clurman, and Cassvettes on Cassvettes by Ray Carney. In addition he offers this challenge, “How can you be a filmmaker if you don’t read Doestivski, or Camus, Jean Genet, or Flannery O’Connor?” He recommends that anyone serious about film as an art form “stop going to the Cineplex for one year only, and rent all the films from John Cassavettes, Godard, Truffant, Werner Herzog, Visconti, Jean Renior, Fassbinder, Abbas Kiorstami, Kurosawa, Eric Rohmer, Krzysztof Kieslowsk, Chris Marker, Fellini, Antonioni, Pasolini, De Sica.”

But however much one may learn from and admire the great auteurs, it is important to maintain a proper perspective on them. “Lots of things have been done, think of your art, think of the responsibility of the medium, and what do you have to offer. Tarantino is Tarantino, you are you. Forget your idols when you start, because your voice will never develop and we will be left with sequels until we die. Let’s kill sequels for a minute. Oh, and it’s always better to have idols who are dead: They will never disappoint, and their lives and work will always retain a romantic element because it was a different time, and we all know that the past is better than the future, right?”