MM: Do you feel that your films fit specifically within Iranian society, or are they universal? Do you make “Iranian films,” or do you just make films?

AF: Many parts of it I think could take place anywhere. I think each film constructs a new world, even if we are from a culture that’s far from the people that are watching. In watching, we also become members of the world of the film. When I watch a Japanese film, it builds a world for me.

MM: Your films represent Iran as a middle-class, modern society, as opposed to what we’ve seen in other Iranian films that portray it as rural or pastoral. Are you influenced at all by Panahi, Abbas Kiarostami or other Iranian directors that came before you, or do you separate yourself from their approach?

AF: If there are influences, they are indirect. The films I make, in a way, are both extremely close to Kiarsotami films and extremely distant. The worlds that he constructs in his films are in fact very deep. He cares a great deal about reality, and he pays detailed attention for things to appear real, and not fictional.

MM: Kiarostami also made films in other parts of the world— Japan for example. You made The Past in France, and your next film might not be in Iran either. Is the concept of becoming a global filmmaker something you think about?

AF: Maybe working outside of Iran is not the same as becoming a global filmmaker. My most global film is A Separation, and I made that in Iran. But if I make films outside of Iran, there are various reasons [for doing so]. Some stories can’t be made in Iran. Sometimes working outside of Iran is a new experience.

MM: Pedro Almodóvar is the producer of your next film. Do you see any comparisons between your films and his?

AF: We actually have two producers. One is French, Alexandre Mallet-Guy, and Pedro. I love Pedro’s films. I love the Spanish atmosphere of his films, and his main preoccupation also is relationships between people, and especially his subject is women. One of my favorite films is Volver. And perhaps the fact that we do like one another’s films has made it possible for us to collaborate. I really have a lot of respect for him. He’s not only a great filmmaker. He’s a great man.

Taraneh Alidoosti in The Salesman

MM: A Separation was an amazing success, and was a global film as you mentioned. Is that something that you’re trying to leave behind, to show people that there’s more to your work than a single film?

AF: I have to live, at any rate, and keep making films. It’s something that happened, and it’s done, so I am on my own path. In certain places, that experience and those successes make things easier for me, and in other places harder. If you make a very successful film, it makes it so that other people have a certain comparison that they always make.

MM: In the time between The Past and The Salesman being released in the US, About Elly and Fireworks Wednesday were finally released theatrically in the US. Now, after A Separation and The Past, your previous films, undiscovered by many until now, have gained more relevance.

AF: I’m very happy about that. The fact that it actually screened after A Separation in America makes me quite happy. In a way, what it did was it made some of the emphasis move away from A Separation by getting distributed.

MM: Lastly, what can you say about your upcoming film and working with Penelope Cruz?

AF: All I can tell you is Penelope is acting is in it, that Pedro and Alexandre are the producers, that it’s going to be in Spain, and that it’s a continuation from the films I’ve made. MM

The Salesman opens in theaters January 27, 2017, courtesy of Cohen Media Group.

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