By Lauren Codling
THE director of a new film being shown at the London Film Festival hopes it will garner attention for its theme of family as he believes that “protecting domestic ties is the only way for society to survive”.
Majid Majidi, the acclaimed Iranian Oscar-nominated director, is premiering his film Beyond the Clouds at the BFI London Film Festival this evening (13).
Set in Mumbai, the film focuses on estranged siblings Amir and Tara who reconcile after a catastrophic event that changes their lives – and their relationship – forever.
Majidi told Eastern Eye that he has been intrigued by India as a country.
“Shooting [the film] in Mumbai added an immense, invaluable layer and reality,” Majidi said. “I was really interested in having a new experience, [having never worked in India], especially considering the Iranian and Indian cultures are so close.”
The 58-year-old director said family is a major theme within all his work and hopes Beyond the Clouds will receive a great amount of attention, as “society is made up of families and the only way for society to survive is to protect and maintain family ties”.
This will be Majidi’s ninth film and debut Indian movie; his celebrated Children of Heaven was the first ever Iranian film to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1998.
Majidi said time and space do not really matter in his films and that his stories could take place anywhere the world.
The music for his latest film was composed by critically acclaimed Indian musician AR Rahman, who Majidi has worked alongside previously on his 2005 film Muhammad.
The director said the pair wanted the music to be a “character” within the feature, an aspect that would be a part of the film rather than “carrying” the audience elsewhere.
“We wanted it to be a very soft and subtle music that simply adds to the ambience without going outside the stage,” Majidi said.
Newcomers Ishaan Khattar, the younger brother of Bollywood star Shahid Kapoor, and actress Malavika Mohanan play the protagonists in the film. Majidi said the pair had a great way of communicating as each came from families who have established film careers behind them.
Most of the cast had not acted before and Majidi acknowledged it could be a challenge at times, but said it achieved “amazing results”.
Among his fondest memories was finding the actress who played Asha, the young girl in the family. The director found the newcomer, Amruta Santosh Thakur, on the streets of India while scouting for filming locations.
“When I saw [Thakur], I thought what on earth is she doing here? She’s one of my film’s heroes, why is she here on the streets?” he said. “Of course, it was very difficult to work with her because she was so young and because of her social background, which was certainly not film or culture, but I’m so glad that we worked so hard to extract her excellent acting skills throughout the film.”
Hours before the world premiere of the film at London’s Embankment Garden Cinema, Majidi said it felt “fantastic” to see the film being presented in such a prestigious festival.
“I am very excited and very curious to see what will people’s reactions will be, specifically those from different countries,” he said.
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All images: Courtesy of BFI