Catching Up with Ebrahim Saeedi
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Catching Up with Ebrahim Saeedi

Still courtesy of TIFF.

During the Islamic revolution of 1979, political unrest forced many Iranian Kurds to seek refuge in neighbouring Iraq, where they were then placed into refugee camps.
Mandoo, which is featured in TIFF‘s Discovery program this year, follows the saga of Sheelan, a young female doctor of Kurdish origin who fled to Sweden with her parents, as she returns to post–Saddam Hussein Iraq. There, she finds her displaced family members and the uncle she hasn’t seen in more than twenty years. Sheelan discovers upon arrival that her uncle has suffered a debilitating stroke, and before long she finds herself accompanying him, his son Shahoo, and the rest of their family on a journey back to their Iranian homeland. Torontoist chatted with director Ebrahim Saeedi to learn more about his story.

Torontoist: What have your impressions been of TIFF so far?
Ebrahim Saeedi: Frankly speaking, I was a couple of days late getting here. I just got here Wednesday, so I haven’t had a chance to check out too many of the details. But what I’ve noticed is that there’s a very nice system in place. Things are done very professionally and I’m quite happy so far.
About your film: the theme of diasporic longing, the desire to be reunited with one’s homeland, is central to the storyline of Mandoo. What does this theme mean to you, as both a director and as a Kurdish Iranian?
This is certainly something that relates to me as a Kurd and Iranian, having wishes to be a part of somewhere and to have a chance to go back to somewhere that you belong, is something that I wanted to show. Everybody has these kinds of wishes deep down, they want to belong somewhere and they want to know that they will one day be able to go back to where they come from.
Do you identify with any of the characters in your film?
I could say that I feel more related to the character of Shahoo, because he wanted to return his father to his homeland. That was something attractive to me. But overall, everything that was said and portrayed, through the cousin who came from outside and all the characters, these were all things I was thinking and that I wanted to convey through different perspectives.
The film is directed through the visual perspective of the dying father who is being returned to his homeland. Why did you choose to approach the story from this point of view?
I chose the father as the main character because he is a person who has gone through decades of difficulties, has ended up in a camp with his family, has devoted his entire life to his family, and at the end, has suffered a stroke, so he is left with nothing but his wishes to return to his homeland. Personally, he has lost a lot, and there is nothing left in the future for him. This father basically has nothing to lose anymore. I wanted to show this, how he had lost everything.
I chose to show the character of the father through the lens of the camera, as if the camera is the eyes of the father and the way he sees his surroundings, because he cannot speak or show any reaction despite being so closely connected with everything happening around him. I found that this was a unique way of expressing the story through the camera.
What’s your favourite movie?
Theo Angelopoulos is my favourite filmmaker. The films that he’s making, he’s basically going into human beings’ inner thoughts, feelings, and experiences on a personal level, expressing the things that every individual experiences through his life while at the same time he examines the social happenings and crises and criticizes things that are happening in society. Those types of subjects are what attract me, those that deal with human beings on a personal level.
Want more TIFF 2010? Torontoist’s complete coverage of this year’s Toronto International Film Festival is all right here.