Born in Tehran, Iran and now a long-term resident of Newcastle Upon Tyne, Tina Gharavi is an award-winning filmmaker, artist, and academic. Her work has been broadcast internationally and her first feature film, I Am Nasrine, has recently been nominated for the BAFTA for Outstanding British Debut.
BAFTA nominee, Tina Gharavi
What’s your connection to the British Council?
I recently was a guest of the British Council taken to present my film I Am Nasrine in Khartoum, Sudan, as part of the European Film Festival and whilst I was there I also delivered a workshop to young Sudanese filmmakers. Being invited to present my debut feature in Sudan was a tantalizing proposition... How wonderful to get an opportunity to show a film about a sensitive situation in Iran and the UK to an audience who see it from a different perspective. The unity I felt from showing it to the Sudanese audience, who understand the film only too well, was emotional and inspiring. Sudan is one of the most misunderstood countries. A beautiful country with a dignified culture with many challenges ahead. It's also great to see something you worked so hard to realise come alive in a context you never imagined. To watch it connect with viewers and bring minds together. That is the power and wonder of film. I will never take it for granted. And it will no doubt see me through the dark days of the next film which I have recently begun producing, The Woman Who Found Saddam. In addition teaching a documentary workshop in Sudan was also a real eye opener. My students, besides being incredibly committed, had an indefatigable spirit. After working two long, hot and exhausting days we were stopped by the Intelligence Service and taken to the police station to account for our activities. We had filmed a harmless series of vignettes on the four corners of an intersection, but although we had official permission, we were forced to delete any footage which contained people. Their beautiful, loving portraits of people in the everyday and ordinary city of Khartoum were priceless, and letting go was hard. But this didn't stop my students. They have continued with their project, "Deleting Sudan". These guys are really heroes! I will never moan again how hard filmmaking is in Britain. It's a piece of cake. And I will never doubt how vital it is for us to tell our stories and allow voices to come alive.
Your current project/s?
I am developing two feature films: a thriller set in Kurdistan (Northern Iraq) called The Woman Who Found Saddam which reimagines the capture of Saddam Hussein, and a large budget gangster film set in Iran and Paris.
What/who originally turned you onto film?
- David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia.
What has been your career high so far?
The BAFTA nomination has been nice! However, just getting to picture lock on I Am Nasrine has been amazing.
What was your first job in the film industry?
I worked on a feature film while still in high school, Fathers and Sons, a spec of a movie but now I realise where I know Christopher (Michael Imperioli) from The Sopranos. We were both young and hung out at the wrap party - it goes to show you, be nice to everyone because you never know where they will end up.
If I knew then what I know now…
The best thing I have learnt on I Am Nasrine is: trust yourself. You should listen to what other people are saying to you but go with your gut. And, in the end there are no rules - nothing is not to be challenged and everything is open for discussion.
What is your favourite British film?
Sorry, it has got to be Lawrence of Arabia again. It’s a near perfect film. A quiet, personal film but also so epic and historic. For me, it has also been the loving portrayal of Sherif Ali. He was noble and a seductive portrayal of someone from the Middle East.
If you could have directed/been involved with any film ever made, which one would it be?
Lawrence again, what an adventure it would have been! I recently spent time in Wadi Rum in Jordan where the film was made and absolutely love it there. I can see why Lean took so long making the picture. Who would want to leave that place?
What’s the first film you remember seeing?
- I remember watching Hans Christian Anderson stories on Iranian TV in the 1970’s and as a child (I was maybe 5 or 6) being incredibly moved by them. It fascinated me that something could make you feel something. I have never forgotten that.
What’s your favourite line or scene from a film?
There are of course scenes in Lawrence a-plenty, but, just to offer variety I'll say the opening of Doctor Zhivago with the balalaika… pure cinema.
Favourite screen kiss?
It has to be the moment in Doctor Zhivago where Yuri and Lara are reunited.
Who’s your favourite screen hero and/or villain?
Both Mrs Moore and Dr. Aziz in A Passage to India. I watched the film recently, when I was in India and I was amazed at how complex a story it is and what craft Lean used to bring it to screen. I am not sure what the post-colonial reading of this film is, and I fear that the representation is problematic, but how Lean framed this story is masterful.
Who would play you in the film about your life? Why?
Lenny Henry… because he is just brilliant and everything I wish I could be!
Find out more about Tina Gharavi in Screen Daily