Babak Anvari makes his feature directorial debut with Under The Shadow, the Sundance hit that now represents the UK in the foreign-language Oscar race.
The Iran-born, London-based filmmaker talks about his filmmaking influences and the film he's planning to follow up the Tehran-set smart horror hit Under The Shadow.
What’s your connection to the British Council?
British Council supported some Los Angeles screenings of Under The Shadow. (read more here about the screenings)
What new projects are you working on?
A Hitchcockian, neo-noir thriller set in the UK – I'm currently developing it with Wigwam Films, the same producers of Under the Shadow, and Film4.
What originally turned you onto film?
I've always been interested in telling stories through images. As a child I was obsessed with comics – mainly European ones like Tintin. And then around the time I was 10 or 11 I started to religiously watch Spielberg and Tim Burton films. I think their films were the ones that inspired me to become a filmmaker as a child – I used to think this is what I want to do! It was only later that I found my other filmmaker idols like Kubrick or Lynch.
I also grew up in a family that loves films and literature, etc. My older brother is also a cinephile and a filmmaker, my uncle used to work in the field of film and theater in Iran and so did my mum's uncle. So probably that had an influence as well.
What has been your career high so far?
Two moments. First time when my short film Two & Two got nominated for a BAFTA in 2012 – it opened doors. Second, when I learnt that Under the Shadow, which is my feature debut, was having its world premiere at Sundance. As a teenager aspiring to become a filmmaker, I used to dream that one day I'd get one of my films screened at Sundance and then it happened with my first feature. It was really exciting.
What was your first job in the film industry?
I helped a friend who started his production company after film school and made a short film through his company. So did some jobs for him as I was cooking up other ideas. And then I ended up working for MTV as an editor and I stayed at MTV for several years whilst making short films. I think each and every experience is important.
What advice would you give to an aspiring filmmaker now?
Be patient and be tenacious. Things don't happen over night. You need to keep trying whilst being patient. I still need to remind myself that being patient is important.
What is your favourite British film?
Wow, there are so many! I can't narrow it down to just one. I can say that so far this year my favourite British film is I, Daniel Blake. It's a very important film. But I probably have a few favourite British films every year so the list is very long!
If you could have been involved with any film ever made, which one would it be?
2001: A Space Odyssey or Close Encounters of the Third Kind. They're both magical films!
What’s the first film you remember seeing?
I was always around film and TV since I was very young. So I genuinely don't know the first film. I'd say it was probably a classic Disney animation like The Jungle Book. I think the first film I watched at cinema was probably an animation called The Last Unicorn directed by Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin, Jr.
What’s your favourite line or scene from a film?
I have many but one of them is probably "Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship" from Casablanca. It just sums up how two opposing forces can come together at the end and help each other out. It's a great, memorable line.
Favourite screen kiss?
Catwoman licking Batman's face under a mistletoe in Batman Returns. I was so obsessed with this film as a child. I think I watched it over 20 times in one year.
Who’s your favourite screen villain?
Heath Ledger's Joker – I remember that I was really scared and fascinated by him when I was first watching The Dark Knight. And also Catwoman in Batman Returns. She's a perfect combination of a hero and a villain.
Who would play you in the film about your life?
Hmmm, interesting question. Maybe Jesse Eisenberg if he dyes his hair black? I can see similarities. He's also a great actor.