The Cleveland International Film Festival promotes artistically and culturally significant film arts through education and exhibition to enrich the life of the community.
April 03, 2019 | posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers
When Sara Zandieh’s family and friends arrived at the L.A. Film Fest premiere of “Simple Wedding” at the Arclight, it almost looked as if they were there for an actual wedding.
“The premiere was wild and there was a big Persian audience,” Zandieh recalled in an interview with The Movable Fest. “When they show up, they show up glam. They were dressed to the nines and it did feel like a wedding.”
Or, maybe, a birth. “Simple Wedding” is Zandieh’s first feature-length film, and it has swiftly become a darling of the Festivals, revealing a strong comic knack and a brilliantly relatable story. “I just wanted to do my take on a romcom,” Zandieh remembers. She began six years ago, loosely basing the plot on elements of her own romantic life at the time. “I’m Iranian, and he was a progressive white guy from Vancouver, and we wanted to represent ourselves, because we felt it was fresh and new and something that we hadn’t seen before.”
Although the story initially started out deeply personal, she moved outward, incorporating the stories of friends and relatives to heighten the dramatic and comedic impact. “I started hearing stories of multicultural relationships,” she says, “and I talked to a lot of Persian cousins and friends who came from much more traditional families where if you’re 30 and not married, it was like the families are freaking out.”
In the process, her heroine’s family became far more conservative than her own, and reflective of the broader intercultural negotiations that many Iranian-Americans negotiate. Many of the families fled to the United States in the wake of the Iranian Revolution, aware that they were viewed as too western and secular by the new regime but determined to hang onto their unique cultural identities.
“A lot of the Iranians,” she explains, “are really adaptable and just trying to hold on to some semblance of tradition.”
In fact, she notes, in the film Nousha’s family doesn’t even bat an eye when her boyfriend Alex introduces his two fathers to them. Their sticking point is cohabitation before marriage. Nousha and Alex find themselves under pressure from both of their families to marry, even though they have only been dating for a few months.
According to The Movable Fest, Nousha’s character continued to evolve once Zandieh found and cast Tara Grammy to play her. She had gone to see Grammy perform onstage in her one-woman show, “Mahmoud.” That performance locked her in. “She’s brave and funny, and what I saw in that show is she cared about the same things that I cared about and the message of the movie, which was that love is greater than all of us and it goes beyond any cultural, religious, socioeconomic difference.”
While Zandieh was tailoring the role, even adding in Grammy’s brilliant Celine Dion impression, Grammy was watching her closely and taking on some of her mannerisms for Nousha. “She started playing me, essentially. . . . [One day] I told her, ‘I like your hair tie.’ And she’s like, ‘I know. It’s what you wear.’”
PHOTO: “I think that everybody can find their own emotional association with the film,” director Sara Zandieh says, “and I love that [it] can have such a multigenerational audience that appreciates it in their own way.”
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