Mohsen Khan Jahani believes that filmmaking during the Corona era is far more difficult than working during the war. He also says that important films about Corona have not been made yet.
According to the ILNA correspondent, the documentary ABC D made by Mohsen Khanejahani is a different story from the time of Krona. In the early days of 1999, when the country was suffering from coronary heart disease and all cities were closed during Nowruz, the World House and its team moved to an uninhabited city caused by a crown virus. Of course, the World House believes that important films about Corona have not been made yet and we will have to wait for it in the years to come. We talked to him about his film and the conditions of filmmaking during the Corona.
Why did you choose Corona? What is the ABC D documentary going to put in front of the audience?
In the early days of the corona outbreak, I decided to make a film about the corona, that is to say, the early days; I did not mean to make a film from the days of the outbreak of coronation in Iran, not by chance when I decided to make a film about the coronation that had not yet spread in Iran.
When I saw people in cyber quarantine in Wuhan, China, I thought to myself, this subject can be very important and influential. In those days I was busy making a movie and at night when we came to our accommodation and followed the news, I thought about the subjects that could be made about Corona. At the same time, we never thought that Corona would spread from China to the whole world. In fact, the idea of making this film came to my mind from those days.
I remember the first news of the corona outbreak came from Qom and we started filming from the very first days. During the days of quarantine and the closure of cities, which coincided with the days of Nowruz, a strange solitude was established in the whole city, and it was here that the issue became much more serious for us. I knew a lot of films would definitely be made about this. It was predictable that different film crews would be formed and many would go to hospitals and make films about the process of infection and treatment. I even remember that in those days it was announced that many films were being shot in different cities. But it seemed to me that what had happened in the city and “stay at home” had happened to all the people, no one knew what was going on right now, for example, at 2 o’clock in the afternoon on Valiasr Street. Or, for example, what is happening in the subway, the airport, the railway and the places of pilgrimage? Maybe someone was taking a picture of Valiasr Street or a BRT, for example, because of his job. We were in our homes and seeing these photos in cyberspace, we were surprised by the volume of silence and emptiness of the streets and we did not know what was going on under the skin of the city. So I decided to portray the atmosphere of absolute silence everywhere in the big city of Tehran. There were also some people who represented the Corona incident. A person who has lost a loved one, or a person who has taken a corona and had to fight the disease alone. So I tried to take a social look at the corona. We also talked to different people on behalf of the people who were in their homes. This is how the ABC D documentary was made from a social perspective on the corona category.
The social dimension of a phenomenon like corona is very broad and requires a dramatic unity if it is to be gathered in a visual field. In terms of research, how can one look at this kind of documentary that is observer, narrator and journalist?
There is a different kind of research about this type of film that the filmmaker is in the middle of. There is a time when the subject of a film requires a prerequisite for research that may take several months at a time, but such works that we are in the midst of crisis and accident can not be expected to be researched in the usual way. Corona, like a flood or earthquake, is a sudden event that affected the country and does not give the opportunity for research at the moment. I can not claim that a film can depict all the social dimensions of an event. I saw scenes from Corona that I had never seen in my 40 years, maybe only in Hollywood movies. These scenes had to be documented and we had to record them for future generations to see. Some may say that we put several images together and edit that we can not call a documentary. But when we are going to record an event and gather a document to tell the future, this has happened; The subject is a little different. In addition to these documents and pictures, we added a few spices, such as saying that families were also involved in this incident, so that the audience knows that when they lose a loved one due to a corona, it is different from other events, such as showing a funeral and mourning. The loss of a loved one due to coronation and other examples such as the life of an old woman and an old man during the coronation and life in quarantine were some of the conditions we portrayed in the documentary. In fact, we see a new way of life that was a kind of corona souvenir. Naturally, in a 50-minute film, we can not mention all the dimensions of this great event. Definitely the corona is not over yet. A cohesive film is a film that records all of these events until they say the Corona vaccine has been discovered. Then we can say that we can close the file of this documentary. This is the documentary I’re working on alongside ABC D, and it continues now.
As you said, many films were made at the same time as the Corona outbreak; Even in one of the sections of the Corona Resistance Film Festival, the narrative was launched and a flood of works flowed into this section. We are also witnessing the presence of films with this theme in the Haghighat Film Festival. Is this level of haste and haste to make a film about a subject in line with the spirit of documentary? Doesn’t this rush build the quality of the work?
Definitely very good films will be made in the years to come. Yes, I agree that there was a rush to make films about Corona, which would definitely hurt. Of course, I’m still working on documenting my report on Corona, and if it weren’t for the Haghighat Film Festival, I wouldn’t have prepared these 50 minutes, and the output would definitely be a better work in the future. But despite this criticism, which I also accept, this year I saw one or two works about Corona, which were made in a short period of time, but the works were impressive, and you can be sure that in the coming years there will be very important documentaries and quality films about Corona in Iranian cinema. And the world will be made. In addition, the works that are present in the festival this year will have more reporting and journalistic structure. Of course, I tried to distance myself from the reporting structure, and the ABCD was not built to go to the scene with a fast camera and sound recorder. From the very first moment, we took all the scenes and scenes in the silence of the city.
Corona may, in social terms, create the conditions of a war-torn country. Tell us about the effects and dangers of making a film in a crisis. How was your experience in making this documentary?
I even think it is worse than war. As a reporter, when you arrive at the scene of a crisis, you quickly spread the word and leave, but the new documentary filmmaker begins and now has to go to the subject and his people and deal with the crisis closely. It does not matter what the crisis is. In the midst of floods, earthquakes and coronas, they all pose the same danger to the filmmaker. Now you think, for example, in the case of floods and earthquakes, the end result of an accident is that a brick falls on your head and face and you are injured. But Corona was a mysterious virus that endangered both the filmmaker and the filmmaker’s family and friends. For this reason, working in Corona was more difficult than the other critical issues, and despite this, the filming team and I followed the protocols, and I felt that if a document was to be collected and told to the future, it should be done now. He did something and that’s why we took all these risks to make this film.
Given that Corona is not over yet, what is the ending of your film? Did you consider an end to this story that you narrated?
I think it is better for the audience and readers of this article to see the film. This film is about the social effects of Corona, but what is on my mind right now, and some of its traces have been taken, is a documentary report on Corona’s arrival in Iran until its end, which is currently unknown. Of course, let me explain about the ABCD documentary that we narrated in this film that there is a corona and we have to live next to it. Man may have to live with this disease now, but life should not be stopped and the new alphabet of life should be learned. ABCD, which is also the name of the movie, is the new alphabet of life in the time of Corona.
How much did the organs, organizations and officials support to make this documentary? Accompanying means coordination to be allowed to film or enter forbidden places and out-of-reach events.
Under normal circumstances, it is very difficult to coordinate to make a documentary, let alone in a critical situation like Corona, which is a state of post-war and it is announced that it should be closed everywhere. For example, we wanted to coordinate with the airport and they said where do you want to come? Closed! Then you think, in this situation, who should we find to allow work and what should be the correspondence process in this closed situation? Fortunately, in this film, Mr. Kaveh Ahmadi, as the producer, insisted a lot that we should not go anywhere and he did all the coordination and provided the conditions, and fortunately, with all the problems, we solved the events in any way.
Documentary cinema has been the focus of the audience in recent years and has grown well in attracting audiences to the point that even last year, the representative of Iranian cinema at the Oscars was a documentary film. With all the ups and downs, where do you see the place of documentary cinema?
There is a famous saying of the children of documentary cinema that “the position of documentary cinema is higher than the position of fiction cinema”. Many criticize this view and their example is the audience’s success in fiction cinema. Of course, there is no difference in the medium form of cinema, whether it is a story or a documentary, and all of this is defined under the same cinema. The fact is that documentary cinema is moving much further than fictional cinema. In the future, rest assured that the audience will no longer have the patience to watch fiction and fiction. When a documentary is easily recorded with a mobile phone and broadcast all over the world, and in a fraction of a second it goes viral in cyberspace and everyone sees it, it shows that people are more interested in realistic documentaries and movies than fictional cinema. This is what happened last year when the film “In Search of Farideh” became the representative of Iranian cinema at the Oscars. Coincidentally, some people choose this documentary for the Oscars, all of which are greats of fiction cinema. I participated in the IDFA, known as the Documentary Film Oscar, last year, and Mr. Oskooi’s film became the best IDFA film. When we see Iranian filmmakers shining among all those documentarians, it means that Iranian documentary cinema has a very high value and credibility. Now people like documentaries more than before and it is no longer like in the past that the audience remembers wildlife images until the name of the documentary comes up. The audience has the power of discernment and analysis among the documentary genres, and it is interesting that the only documentary cinema medium, which is the documentary network, which does not broadcast any work at all, is one of the most watched television networks.
Of course, you can also take advantage of new theatrical capabilities such as online screening.
Yes; Online screening is a new experience that we do not know if it will be a good experience or a bad experience in the future. But now I feel that the experience of online screening can help documentary cinema. Corona made us not avoid this online show, and this is happening all over the world. Now that this experience is about to happen, the audience is getting wider. If until last year, only Charso Cinema was able to show films for a capacity of up to a thousand people, with the experience of online screening in the most remote areas of the country, we can distribute our films to the audience. What could be better than this for a documentary filmmaker? Of course, in the meantime, we must say that, unfortunately, documentary cinema has no market. Right now, there is no institution or company other than the Center for the Development of Documentary and Experimental Cinema, which has a limited budget, to which I, as a documentary filmmaker, can put my film and sell the company. It is a bitter truth that there are at least 4,000 viewers of the target community of eighty million at best and for the best documentary of the year. The documentary network also has a meter and standards that only broadcast certain films and not all works can be shown from it. Are we in the days of holding the Haghighat Film Festival now? How many actors and celebrities are willing to advertise the festival films on their pages for free these days so that people can watch documentaries? Unfortunately, it remains our profession and we continue this path only for the love of documenting.