NEW DIRECTORS| Justine Poustchi

justinepoutschi_iranianfilmdailyJustine Poustchi is a writer, director, and film editor based in both New York and Ottawa, Canada. A published fiction author as well she got into New York University’s Tisch school (one of the country’s most revered art schools) on the strength of her writing credentials and completed the Film and Television Production program.

Her last film, “The Wind,” is a rumination on loss and homeland as seen through the eyes of an Iranian in New York City. In this and her new film, “Mother Tongue,” Poustchi draws on her multicultural heritage (Persian, Sri Lankan, and Irish) to highlight the challenges of the human experience.

In “Mother Tongue,” Sara (played by Layla Khoshnoudi) is a zen-like introvert living with her single father in a cramped Tehran apartment. She wakes up the morning after a heated argument to discover he’s passed away in his sleep.

As Sara buries her father she finds that she cannot get away from the incessant demands that she be a good daughter, even in the aftermath of his death. “Mother Tongue” tells the story of womanhood in all its complexities, the demands, the fragilities, the joys and the pressures of the post-feminist era.

New York University’s film school is one of the world’s finest purveyors of new filmmakers: Joel Coen, Charlie Kaufman and Martin Scorsese are all alumni, so it should reasonably follow that Justine Poustchi, who recently ran a successful crowd-funding campaign to finance “Mother Tongue,” will eventually find her way to the Oscars table. That’s the bullish five-year forecast, at least (a request sent to the filmmaker for comment went unanswered) – Ali Naderzad

NEW DIRECTORS | Zal Batmanglij

zalbatmanglij_iranianfilmdailyCompleting this month’s New Directors series is Zal Batmanglij, the director behind 2011’s “The sound of my voice,” starring Brit Marling and made for $ 135, 000. Easy comparisons to better-known relatives are best avoided altogether but I’ll make an exception in this case. As if you didn’t know, Zal Batmanglij is related to Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij and Najmieh “Food of life” Batmanglij.

Batmanglij, who reminds one of a Bobby Canavale with better eyebrows, is based in L.A. In 2013 he directed Marling along with Ellen Page and Alexander Skarsgård in “The East,” which was shot in Shreveport, La. The film was made for $ 6.5M and grossed $4.7M at home and worldwide. An appreciable budget means a bold-faced name somewhere in the credits. In this case, Batmanglij’s film got an inflow of cash from Ridley Scott’s Scott Free production company.

On both “East” and “Sound” Batmanglij collaborated creatively with former university pal Marling, the latter sharing in the responsibility for screenwriting as well as taking on lead role duties.

With three feature-length films to his credit—the “Sound” mentioned earlier his most important achievement to date, both critically and commercially—Batmanglij is probably not going away anytime soon. The latest is that he was tapped to direct the Chad Hodge-created “Wayward Pines” (FX productions) with two episodes under his helm in the works. – Ali Naderzad

NEW DIRECTORS | EMILIE RICHARD-FROOZAN takes “Buttercup Bill” to Raindance


Emilie Richard-Froozan will be traveling to London this weekend along with co-director and co-screenwriter Rémy Bennett to support her first feature film “Buttercup Bill” at the 2014 Raindance Festival.

Richard-Froozan, who is based in Brooklyn, is an Iranian-American New Yorker through-and-through: she was born and raised in New York City. She previously directed “Rufur,” a short film which was part of the selection at the 2011 Boston Underground Film Festival.

Her film “Buttercup Bill” is pure art fare out of left field with some a strong sexual content thrown in. An irreverent and genuine ode to youth’s sexual energy, “Buttercup Bill” needs to be defended heart and soul. In an ever-more conservative America this is a film that shoots straight from the hip.

In the course of ninety-five minutes “Buttercup Bill,” described by the production as “psychosexual dark romance,” unspools its disquieting tale about two childhood friends, Patrick and Pernilla (they’re more like siblings separated at birth) who reunite after a tragedy. Images of their past and present are hurled at us, dream-like, while drug-fuelled hazes and memories control their every moment together. They struggle to suppress what is within although clearly, their utmost yearning is for one another. And yet, there is a reason why they should remain forever apart.

It took a mere sixteen days to shoot “Buttercup Bill” on location in rural Louisiana and cost $ 1.5M to make, which in today’s indie ecosystem of fly-by-night productions and Kickstarter-happy bedroom filmmakers amounts to a fortune. And since every serious indie production requires someone with cachet to nurture the project and open doors Londoner actress and fashion designer Sadie Frost who unveiled her own production outfit, Blonde to Black” nearly three years ago, will be at the helm here. Richard-Froozan and Bennett will travel to London with her next week to attend two screenings and Q&As that have been scheduled. – Ali Naderzad 

“Buttercup Bill” had its world premiere at the recent Marfa Film Festival in Texas.

Screenings: Tuesday 30th September at 6:30 p.m. and Thursday 2nd October at 1:30 p.m. Both screenings will be followed by Q & As with Emmy Comley, Sadie Frost (producers), Emilie Richard Froozan, Rémy Bennett and Evan Louison.

Buttercup Bill
Country: UK/USA
Runtime: 95 mins.
Directed by Emilie Richard-Frozan and Rémy Bennett
Written by Emilie Richard-Frozan and Rémy Bennett
Produced by Sadie Frost and Emma Comley
Produced by Andrew Green, Ben White Dop, Ryan Foregger
With Rémy Bennett, Evan Louison, Pauly Lingerfelt

NEW DIRECTORS | BABAK JALALI advances to final round of San Francisco Film Society competition

babakjalali_iranianfilmdailyIt was just announced that London-based filmmaker Babak Jalali was nominated by the San Francisco Film Society as grant finalist in the society’s annual round of artistic philanthropy for his film “Radio dreams.” Every year the Society, in connection with the Kenneth Rainin Foundation, selects narrative feature film projects and awards $300,000 to one or more of them.

In “Radio dreams” a brilliant and misunderstood Iranian musician lands in San Francisco to pursue his lifelong dream of recording with Metallica while a beautiful and mysterious woman takes over his radio show.

Jalali has partnered up with Marjaneh Moghimi of San Francisco-based Butimar Productions (“Fifi howls from happiness”). “Radio dreams” is currently in pre-production. Winners of the SFSFC grant competition will be announced in late November.

After a well-remarked run on the festival circuit in 2006-2010 during which he gathered a BAFTA nomination (2006, “Heydar, Yek Afghani dar Tehran” or “Heydar, an Afghani in Tehran” in the Farsi title), and a Golden Leopard nomination at Locarno in 2009 for “Frontier blues,” (in 2010 he earned the FIPRESCI Prize for the same film at San Francisco) among others, Jalali dropped off the face of the earth. Is this a case of what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? Either way, the kid is back and it is hoped he’ll take “Radio Dreams” (he’s also planning on directing a film called “Land”) all the way to the Cannes or Berlin finish line. Fingers crossed.


NEW DIRECTORS | INDIEGOGO CAMPAIGN almost in the can for Kevin Hamedani short

kevinhamedani_iranianfilmdailyThings are happening in L.A.’s Iranian-American filmmaker community, a portend of things to come in 2015 and beyond? Ana Lily Amirpour’s “A girl walks home alone at night” recently made the rounds of European film festival getting generally positive reactions. Another local filmmaker by the name of Kevin Hamedani (featured image) is getting ready to direct “Prince Ali,” a live action short about living in exile and returning to Iran. Hamedani is using the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo through which he’s earned $17,000 out of a total goal of $22,000.

Being in Los Angeles isn’t without its perks, clearly, since you’re right inside an ecosystem bubbling with financing opportunity and people with Godzilla-size addressbooks. Just as Amirpour’s film got the attention of Elijah Wood, whom she then enlisted to help shepherd the project through to completion funding Hamedani’s film will likely benefit greatly from the presence of tinseltown scribe Max Borenstein (“Godzilla”) who is on board as producer.

Assuming his good sense of timing Hamedani will be submitting “Prince Ali” to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) for a shot at an Oscar come next year.

“Prince Ali” stars Sheila Vand (“Argo,” “A girl walks home alone at night”), produced by Max Borenstein, Angel Lopez (“Dear white people”) and Julia Lebedev (“The Prophet,” “Dear white people”) and Eric J. Feig (Advanced style).