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Leila’s parents, both white-British had
lived there before the revolution, and
had a great love for the country. She
was born after they left, but she had
been on a trip with her mum once
before – so she swore it was nice... So,
I asked, should I ignore government
advice which was basically to NEVER
So from that moment I wanted to
make a documentary there, I started
researching the history and gradually
began developing contacts in Iran.
It was on my next trip to Tehran that
I met Amir at Iran’s Fajr International
Amir it turned out, lived down the
road from me in London, so back in
On top of it all, the British embassy had town we got to know each other and
started working together on research
been raided three weeks before – but
for the documentary. Having built
having already paid for the visas and
up a good trust through all our work
the tickets – we decided we shouldn’t
be put off by a skirmish. Another thing, together, we became aware also, that
we were in quite a unique position. A
I’m six-foot-six, have blond hair and a
ginger complexion – should blend in fi ne dual nationality partnership, with a foot
in both camps, we weren’t aware of
then, I thought.
I remember coming in to land in Tehran anyone else connecting up the media
and fi lm businesses in both countries
for the fi rst time and being quietly
but we could see both had much to
glad that I’d put all my affairs in order
offer each other.
back home, said goodbye to my
The creative talents within Iran have
family, left the cat-fl ap open – as I was
been famed for centuries. Once they
convinced – I was going to spend the
were exclusively employed creating
next four years chained to a radiator...
the fi nest silk carpets in the world.
if I was lucky.
Today they’re not just artisans, they’re
Shuffl ing into the short “Foreigners”
queue at immigration, I stepped forward directors, musicians, compositors,
to the Iranian offi cial at the immigration 3d modellers, game designers. Its
exchange rate is furiously competitive,
desk, and handed over my passport.
“Ah British?” he looked at the passport. and it may come as a surprise to learn,
Iran has just shot its biggest budget
He didn’t need to look at me – I knew
movie to date, directed by Majid Majidi
he was looking into my dark colonial
soul. A bead of sweat trickled down my – a fi lm of the Prophet Mohammed’s
forehead. Flick, fl ick, fl ick, fl ick – pause life weighing in at $150m. Besides
– fl ick, fl ick. Stamp. Stamp. He grinned. this it makes around 70 nationally
funded features each year. Iranians
“Welcome in Iran.” He smiled and
waved me on. I think I somewhat reeled believe in fi lm.
over the red line into Iran. Just a cheery In the fi rst few months of this year,
we have already had constructive
welcome - was that it?
meetings with many senior fi gures in
In fact my abiding memory of that
the main government organisations
trip was of incredibly warm welcome.
that cover the creative industries,
People were thoroughly apologetic
who have been vocally supportive
about the embassy, paying for
of our work, including the Deputy
our bus and taxi fares, inviting us
of Cinema in Iran, the Deputy of
into their homes.
Farabi Foundation (BFI equivalent),
I became instantly fascinated by
International Director of Soreh,
a country that seemed to be so
International Deputy of IRIB, and the
dramatically different to my prior picture Head of Visual Media Arts.
of it. As someone producing fi lm and
In tandem we have good relationships
TV you are always trying to get under
with numerous indies, game
the skin, fi nd the reasons behind
producers, animation studios, post
things, grab characters and stories,
houses, manufacturers, 35mm rc
things that have been lingering in the
helicopter companies (Arri 235 in
dark and bring them out into the light.
an rc chopper anyone?). We also
have strong relationships with many
independent (and famous) Iranian fi lm
directors and producers.
Things are on the move in Iran. We’re
supporting a number of UK based
companies on their productions in
Iran, including documentaries and
travelogs. We’ve had constructive
discussions with producers even at
the BBC, at major international news
outlets based in the UK, and with
UK government departments that
cover creative media and import-
exports, they know us and we work
transparently with them.
If you want to make a fi lm in Iran, or
out-source – we can help. To Amir
as someone who has grown up
there, and me as an outsider, Iran is
a treasure trove of talent, places and
stories. It’s had a lid on for years, so
we’ve made it our business to bring
harryamir.com TV-BAY MAGAZINE: ISSUE 88 APRIL 2014 | 59