Interview: I Am Nasrine Director Tina Gharavi
By Marian Shek on May 4, 2012 in Film
“It’s an oddly shaped film,” director Tina Gharavi admits. “But people are hearing about it and starting to request it. It’s starting to come to life”. Like some Frankenstein’s monster, I Am Nasrine, Tina’s oddly shaped film, has taken on a life of its own.
Since it opened the Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival last year, it’s gone international, recently shown at the Persian Film Festival in Australia and the Middle East Now film festival in Florence. The attention the film is getting has come as a pleasant surprise for Tina, who wrote and directed the film based on the experience of immigrants in the UK. It’s also garnered a lot of love locally, packing out the Tyneside Cinema whenever it is shown there.
So we’re glad to hear that the venerable cinema will again be screening I Am Nasrine as part of the Festival of Belonging, organised by Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts, alongside a chat between Tina and author Jackie Kay.
Tina, an acclaimed documentary maker, university lecturer and all-round lovely person, explains how her first feature film fits into the theme of the festival: “The whole film is about identity, the idea of displacement and how people who have to migrate deal with displacement.”
Made on a shoestring budget, largely with volunteers, the film stars Micsha Sadeghi as Nasrine, who is forced to leave Tehran with her brother, Ali, when she runs into trouble with the authorities. This sets them off on a journey of self-discovery as they try to make a new life in Newcastle.
It is a story of dis-location that is becoming ever more important in multicultural Britain and across the globe – a story Tina is passionate about telling.
“People are displaced for many reasons – climate refugees, political ones. The current conflict in Syria has created hundreds and thousands of refugees. We have to realize it’s a common phenomena, it’s only going to increase and we need to deal with it so people aren’t traumatised by the experience.”
Tina’s own traumatic experience of exile is poured into the film. She came to Britain in 1979 because of the Iranian Revolution, aged six, with her father. “My mum stayed in Iran, so for me there’s quite a big rupture because of that.
“I started to go back to Iran in 2000, and I reacquainted myself with my mum and my culture. That’s what led me to make this film – the disconnection of living between the east and the west.”
Tina has negotiated these apparently conflicting aspects of her own identity by rejecting the idea of belonging to any sovereign state: “Nationhood is a false concept,” she states.
“It’s the people who make you feel you belong – the community.” This theme comes through in Nasrine’s story, as she is welcomed and befriended by members of the Traveller community, who literally cross borders and make their homes wherever the wind takes them.
The issues around this story are so important to Tina and her team that they took the risk of shooting part of the film in Iran, despite a huge crackdown by the Iranian government. Because of this, she and Micsha may never be able to step foot in their homeland again. But Tina has no regrets: “If we didn’t make the film, they would’ve won. We really wanted to say what needed to be said for the people and for ourselves.”
Being crafted with such passion, and at such risk, it’s no surprise I Am Nasrine has been praised as a touching and affecting film. It’s a film whose creator should be proud to be sending into the world, no matter how oddly shaped it may be.
- Preview: I Am Nasrine @ The Tyneside Cinema