Maryam Farahzadi: I don’t want to keep repeating a successful idea

Maryam Farahzadi is an Iranian animated filmmaker living in the United States. What distinguishes her from others is that she has achieved something that has never been tried before by combining miniature art and animation in her short film ‘The Role of Each Fret’, inspired by Hafez’s poem. It is a good example of how classical arts offer new openings with modern possibilities.

Thanks for accepting interview request, let’s start by getting to know you.

Sure! Thank you for having me. My name is Maryam Farahzadi, an award winning Animation filmmaker and character designer. I finished my Bachelors degree in Graphic Design from University of Tehran and then I migrated to USA in order to continue my education in Master of Fine Arts in Film & Animation at Rochester Institute of Technology. I have directed 3 short films so far which have been really successful innumerous Film Festivals internationally. Currently I live and work in Los Angeles, California and working on my next short film.

We know you with the animation of “The Role of Every Curtain”. This work has received many awards. How did you come up with the idea of combining miniature art with modern video animation techniques?

“The Role of Each Fret” is based on a poem from Hafiz, a famous Persian poet. The story is about the union of a couple in love by getting assistance from a joint effort of music and nature performed in Persian miniatures from ancient Iran/Persia. Persian miniatures inspired me, hence I decided to bring them to life using a technique called “digital cut-out animation,” which received much praise from my peer painters, artists, and filmmakers. The Role of Each Fret has won the first prize of Farhang Film Festival in Los Angeles, the second prize from the Roshd International Film Festival, and four more awards from national and international film festivals and has been showcased in more than 35 film festivals internationally. I am honored to see how this short movie influenced many of my peers to create similar projects using 2D animation and Persian miniature.

The Role of each Fret from Maryam farahzadi on Vimeo.

What opportunities does classical miniature art offer modern art and modern animation techiques?

I do believe that ancient classical miniatures have a great potential for modern animation. since almost all of them are telling a short story in one frame which can be an inspiration for many filmmakers. also the look of them are very gorgeous, eye catching and very unique. My film got so many positive feedback in the international film festivals since it looks different than many other animation that are producing these days.

What was the reflection of the people when you used the miniature art in animation? Especially among children, classical miniature artists, Western and Eastern audience.

As I mentioned above, the audience of my film really loved it and most of the feedbacks were so positive. they think this film is very different than what they are used to watch these days. Specially for the audience from western countries it is very unique that they want to know more about the culture that these arts are coming from.

Why didn’t you make new animations combined miniature art and animation?

I do like to make similar projects using miniature art but I have to make sure that I have something new to add to that. so it doesn’t look like that I’m just repeating one successful idea.As a filmmaker, You should always be careful about avoiding repetition in your career otherwise critiques are always out there to attack you for just repeating one idea.Like some of other filmmakers and artists who were inspired by my film, and made similar projects which I believe they just simply copied the idea rather than take it to the next level.

You have other animation videos for kids, can you tell us about your projects? Is there any new Project?

I made 2 other films which is suitable both for children and adults: “Blue” and “Goldfish”. Blue wrestles with the societal struggle to accept differences as an asset rather than an unwanted nuisance—inspired by my own experience as an immigrant who came to the USA to pursue my dream in filmmaking. Although my own experience very much influences Blue, I still believe the core message is relatable for others who shared the same challenges. Blue can be the story of immigrants, women, people of color, minorities, and all the people out there who are being excluded or rejected from society.

Blue – Trailer from Maryam farahzadi on Vimeo.

I intentionally implemented a minimalistic character design and storytelling approach to enable empathy in a broader range of audience. The use of color in this film is precise and symbolic. For example, the blue color defines the main character’s mood and depression. The green color is a symbol of hope and growth. I also used a 2D style with a paper feel to show the world from the character’s point of view which is very simple and may look dull. Blue is about embracing diversity. Through this film I wanted to engage with the audience and offer a different perspective on inclusion; therefore I used colors is a dominant metaphor throughout the film. I hope to induce a positive impact on the mindset of viewers and invite them to make this world a friendly place.

Goldfish from Maryam farahzadi on Vimeo.

Blue has been screened and awarded in over 30 film festivals worldwide including a Juror’s Award from Act Human Rights Film Festival of Colorado and selected winner at CBCF ALC film festival by US Congressman Hank Johnson in 2018. “Goldfish” however is my MFA Thesis film and I finished it a couple months ago. I just started submitting that to the film festivals and it has been selected for some of them so far. Looking forward to see how this one would do in the film festivals in future.

Finally, do you want to add something ?

We live in a fast-paced society and a lot of people feel left behind, and I strongly believe that short films or short animations are great vessels to create awareness about all the challenges we face as a nation. I personally prefer animation because of its versatility and ability to convey messages or create settings that are usually very difficult to be portrayed in a live action movie. But If you wanna be an animation filmmaker, just keep in mind that, this career needs a lot of patience and love.

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