Niki Padidar, Director of IDFA Opener ‘All You See,’ on the Immigrant Experience in the Netherlands, Situation in Her Home Country of Iran

Niki Padidar, Director of IDFA Opener ‘All You See,’ on the Immigrant Experience in the Netherlands, Situation in Her Home Country of Iran

Opening this year’s International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), “All You See” explores what it feels like to no longer be seen, but stared at. Told through four parallel stories of immigrants in the Netherlands, the film investigates what it feels like to be a foreigner in the country. It is a deeply personal project for director Niki Padidar, who makes her feature debut after taking home the IDFA Best Children’s Documentary Award for her short film “Ninoc” in 2015.

Nominated for the IDFA Award for Best Dutch Film and the IDFA Award for Best First Feature, “All You See” is produced by director Menna Laura Meijer (“Now Something Is Slowly Changing,” “Kyteman – Now What?”). English musician Fink pens both the film’s score and original song, “Beforever Like a Curse.”

Padidar sat down with Variety ahead of the film’s world premiere to discuss cinema’s approach to diaspora, collaborative working and how she feels about the current situation in her home country of Iran.

This is a very personal documentary. How did the idea for it first come to you?

It’s the first personal thing I made. I’m not a fan of doing personal stuff. At the “Ninouk” premiere, my producer and I were talking about my parents and he told me to write down some things I remembered. All of a sudden I had 17 pages. That was the beginning of it, but it evolved because it was a development for me, too. I didn’t want to know more about the subject at first — I was denying it existed because it’s more comfortable to pretend it didn’t. But the film forced me to dive into it and now I know it’s a much bigger part of my life than I thought.

“All You See” is your first feature film. Why now?

I felt ready for it. Since we first came here [to the Netherlands], when I was seven, my family and I never talked about this. It’s not something you do intentionally, you just put it away. As you can see in the film, it’s hard to talk about it because people want to deny it, so you end up censoring yourself because you don’t want to deal with that. But, if I don’t talk about it, who will?

And how did you, as a filmmaker, achieve a balance between the subjective and objective when working on a story that is so personal to you?

It was very hard. I usually have a protagonist, but, because I was part of the story, I had a lot of doubts. In the scene where I cry, I thought, ‘Who cares? Does anybody care that I’m emotional about this? Is this relevant?’ You keep questioning things you usually wouldn’t because you’re not able to be objective about yourself. That’s why I decided to have Khadija, one of the protagonists, interview me.

You have three very different subjects in the film. How did you find them?

I found Hannah and Sophia in what they call newcomers classes we have in the Netherlands. Every kid who’s new to the country gets to go to a newcomer’s class. I told them about my story and was allowed to observe in the classroom and it all went really intuitively. The poem Hannah reads in the film came out of a pile of poems in the classroom. Every time I picked a poem I liked out of the pile, it turned out to be Hannah’s. With Sophia, I just really liked her, you could see every emotion on her face. She was the only one who said, “I don’t like being new because I miss my friends.”

With Khadija, I posted on Facebook that I was looking for someone who was new in the country and funny. That’s the only thing I asked for. She was one of the women I was tipped on and the first time I met her I knew she was the missing link in the film.

How long did it take for you to make “All You See” and how much of that time was spent working with the subjects?

The whole film took about six years, but the subjects weren’t there for all of those. I spent time with the three subjects but didn’t have many conversations beforehand, I saved the interviews for the film so it would be authentic. Every time you see me surprised in the film, it’s because it’s the first time I’m hearing it.

How does it feel to have your first feature open a festival with the standing of IDFA?

It’s crazy, but it’s been so busy I haven’t had any time to realize what’s happening.

Have Hannah, Sophia and Khadija watched the film yet?

No, they’re saving it for the premiere. I think it’s a bit safer for them now. Sophia was six [when we filmed] and she’s 10 now. I’m really curious to see what they think and how the audience will react.

Fin Greenall, the English singer known artistically as Fink, composed both the film’s score and wrote its original song, “Beforever Like a Curse.” How was your creative collaboration?

He was Amy Winehouse’s producer and is very successful. I think he’s someone who is always reinventing himself. I fantasized about working with him but, of course, never thought it would happen. I wrote him a short message on social media and sent him my short film. I thought, “Maybe if he’s bored in a hotel room he’ll have time to watch it and will be interested in collaborating with me,” and I guess he was bored in a hotel room because he watched it and got back to me! I was screaming all over my house! I think it was a pretty hard job for him because I wanted the estrangement to be in the music but I didn’t want the music to tell its own story. He did an amazing job.

Now that the film is out in the world, are you already thinking about the next one?

I need to lay in a hospital bed and recover for a few months [laughs]. I have been thinking about maybe making a short film about the situation in Iran. There’s so much going on and there’s so much violence in this regime, the killing of children and teenagers… It’s just horrible. So the timing is really difficult for me because I’m happy about the film but at the same time I feel guilty for being happy while people are being lynched over there. I’m obsessively watching all these TikToks and YouTube videos people upload so I’m thinking maybe I can collect those and make a short film, so at least I can do something.

Read More About:

Source: Read Full Article