How would you describe your directorial and artistic style? Does it vary per project, or are there forms of cohesiveness you like to reiterate?
It definitely varies by project. I identify as an Iranian-Texan, so I have this dual existence that really comes through in my work. Sometimes I make a goofy music video with a Texas indie band, and other times I make a serious Persian short film that aims to send a meaningful social message. I think there’s a throughline in my work, though. I’m really inspired by authentic storytelling and real, universal stories that people from any background can resonate with.
My ultimate goal is to bring Iranians and Middle Eastern stories into mainstream American media. We have been villainized and stereotyped for far too long, and I want to be a part of the shift towards more inclusive and fair depictions of my people on screen.
I recently was the semi-finalist to direct a short film for Disney+ with an Iranian story.
It’s an initiative called Disney Launchpad where 6 underrepresented filmmakers get the opportunity to direct a short film through their cultural and diverse lens for Disney+. I didn’t end up getting chosen, but the fact that I made it that far in the competition was really encouraging. It also gave me hope that bigger studios are prioritizing diversity in the content they are choosing to produce.
Your 10-minute short film Maryam Joon is a captivating extension from your portfolio and has received critical acclaim. Mind telling us more about the film, its context, and why you chose to keep it private for over 5 years?
Maryam Joon is the story of a young girl named Maryam who accidentally discovers a provocative VHS tape that belongs to her father. As she watches the tape, she is exposed to things she’s never seen before and becomes conflicted about what to do with it.
The film explores the complex social and cultural forces that shape the individual lives of girls in post-1979 Iran, touching on themes of generational conflict, gender roles, censorship, and the tensions between tradition and modernity.
The film screened at festivals in-person worldwide, but I kept the internet link to the film private for 5 years for fear of the Iranian regime questioning me upon returning to Iran. Around the time of making the film, I would go back to visit every couple of years.
I publicly released the film in the Fall of 2022 when the Woman, Life, Freedom movement began. Since releasing the film, I have not traveled back to Iran, nor do I have plans to.