Iran’s Arsalan Amiri, who won two awards at Venice for his debut feature “Zalava,” is back at the Hong Kong — Asia Film Financing Forum (HAF) with his new project, “Janava.”
“Zalava,” which was at HAF in 2019, also played at the Toronto, Rotterdam and the Goteborg festivals, among many others. The Farsi-language “Janava” will follow four treasure hunters who embark on a journey to find a lost treasure. Their lives are in danger when they realize a djinn (or genie) is among them and wants to claim the treasure for itself.
“My previous film, ‘Zalava,’ focused on the dangerous beliefs of the masses. My second film, ‘Janava,’ focuses on the individual beliefs of characters and how they defy societal norms,” Amiri says. “Belief is my favorite theme to work with. I have faced the good and bad effects of belief in my life — but when these beliefs are warped or taken to extremes by the individual or in politics, it causes the destruction of human societies. My experience living in the Middle East and studying history proves the importance of people’s beliefs. Well, I would also like to make an interesting and entertaining film of course, and this film genre would help to make the concept interesting.”
“Janava” is also informed by the ongoing protests in Iran. “What compels a person to sacrifice themselves for the good of society?” asks Amiri. “Recently, street protests against traditional laws in my country have turned violent and people have lost their lives. Despite the risks of being imprisoned or killed by the government, people continue to fight, even at the cost of their own lives, for a better society. Janava draws from this determination and fighting spirit. A symbolic film with a mix of black comedy and magic realism, ‘Janava’ is a thrilling exploration of what it means to rebel against traditional society and be willing to sacrifice oneself for the greater good.”
The project reunites Amiri with his “Zalava” producers Ruth Yoshie Linton and Ida Panahandeh, who produce for Singapore’s Kingyo Films and Iran’s Evar Film Studio, respectively. “Nahid,” written by Amiri and Panahandeh, who also directed, won the Avenir Award at Cannes’ Un Certain Regard in 2015.
“It has been more than 20 years since I collaborated with Arsalan Amiri. A long-term and, in my opinion, successful collaboration that has led to the creation of influential and often global films which are well received internationally,” Panahandeh says. “Now and in his second feature after his successful debut, ‘Zalava,’ he decided to narrate a story in the heart of Kurdistan. Again I have this chance to be with him on his journey. I believe the result will undoubtedly be an important, effective movie with the taste of Middle Eastern magic realism.”
Linton adds, “After the journey with Arsalan for his first feature ‘Zalava,’ there is no way not to back his next one. He is a real storyteller, he has tons more stories to tell — it is pouring out.”
“Janava” is budgeted at $800,000 of which $150,000 has been secured. As for what the producers are seeking at FilMart, Panahandeh says, “Our project is a film in the thriller mystery genre with a uniquely Kurdish story. We look forward to companions that are as passionate as us in making an intriguing genre film with a focus on important issues about the region.”
Linton added: “We need to expand our map. To tell this story of Kurdistan, we are looking outside of geography.”
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