The 405 caught up with Iranian filmmakers Farnoosh Samadi and Ali Asgari to talk film-making, influences, confronting one's mortality in film, and their short The Silence.

The Silence tells the story of Fatma and her mother, who are kurdish refugees in Italy. On their visit to the doctor, Fatma has to translate what the doctor tells to her mother, but she keeps silent. The film stars Valentina Carnelutti, Cahide Ozel, and Fatma Alakus.

See the trailer for The Silence below.

Welcome Farnoosh and Ali to The 405! I'd like to start if I may be inquiring about your individual histories and then how they dove-tail. What got you as individuals into film-making? Then how did you come to collaborate?

Ali: I am an Iranian filmmaker who has graduated in Italy from Cinema. I made 7 short films: 2 of them competed in Cannes short film competition and one of them was in competition in Venice. Recently I made my first feature film which competed in Venice Film Festival and Toronto Film Festival. my short films participated in more than 600 film festivals and won more than 150 internationally awards.

Farnoosh: I am also an Iranian filmmaker who has graduated in Italy from Fine Arts Academy in Rome. I collaborated on screenplays of Ali's short films as well as his feature film. I was also co-director of The Silence which was in competition at Cannes and my recent short film Gaze was in competition at Locarno Film festival.

As mentioned we both studied in Italy and there we met together in some student gatherings and after talking, we found out we have many similarities and common ideas especially about cinema and it was the start of our collaboration.

How does collaboration work for you two? What is that creative dynamic like? Is it more collaborative in everything or do you each have individual specialties you focus on that later combine to get the film where it needs to be?

Normally when we want to start a new film we talk about potential Ideas that could be a nice story. For instance, small ideas that we had before, things we hear from our friends, small moments that are interesting to us and even sometimes by looking at a photo that attracts us (the last case happened in the short film The Baby). After finding the right subject we start to talk about it as much as possible and we try to find the beginning and the ending and when we have found all of that, one of us starts writing the script and when finished the other one rewrites it and at the same time we talk about different situations. All the process of creating is a collaborative process even after writing and in the casting, location scouting, and the rest.

Favorite films and directors? Which have been most influential on your development as artists?

We both have kind of similar taste in cinema. There are many filmmakers and films that we both love who are more European filmmakers. There  are many  but as we want to name filmmakers like Haneke, Mungiu, the Dardenne Brothers and older generation like Antonioni, Godard, Bergman, Pasolini, Fellini.

Greatest challenges and greatest triumphs as individual artists? And as collaborative artists?

The challenges and triumphs are similar for both of us so if we can achieve these as collaborative, it is also for both of us as individuals. We always try to be as honest as possible and transfer this honesty into our films so we can connect better with the audience. Catching the audience's attention and transferring the messages we are looking for is always a challenge for us and if we can do so, it is the biggest triumph for us. But we are not talking about the audience just come to cinema to enjoy for two hours but the audience that wants to be entertained and at the same to think for even a few moments, about their existence as human beings – I, the world, and the situation of themselves as human beings.

What makes a great film?

The meaning of great film is different for each person and it depends on their expectation from cinema and film but we think that great ideas bring great films and you can catch these great ideas by observing the world well.

Getting into The Silence, I'm curious what the impetus was for the idea for the film itself. What inspired you to write and make it?

Farnoosh: I moved to Italy to study and I kind of experienced a similar story when I took a friend to the hospital as she could not speak Italian, but not as bad as what we see in the movie. The sparkle of the idea came from that period.

Ali: Apart from what Farnoosh said, for us it was very important to think about child immigrants who are taken to another country by their parents. They have no choice or will. They have to go. They become silent witnesses of what is happening around them. We tried to mix observation and experience together, and this film is the result.

The Silence was not just a meditation on certain parts of the global refugee crisis to me. This was very much a tale of how we deal with our own mortality and that of the people closest to us – also with a more abstract mortality, as I can only imagine a feeling like some sort of death must be felt when one is basically forced to leave one's home country as a refugee. What do you hope the film says about that and what do you hope it says more generally to audiences?

The great thing about cinema is that each person gets different things from the same film but for us mortality is very important and in the background of our films and even this film you can feel it and we are happy you got it. Apart from that the film is also about feelings, hope and love. At the end of the film the mom and daughter hug each other and it is a moment for hope and love. It is a moment where there seems to be no hope but with this hug they show themselves and us that there is always a hope even in the hardest and darkest time. Leaving the people with this feeling was important. 

Last, what is next for you as individual artists and with (perhaps) future collaborations?

Ali: After The Silence I finished my feature film which I co-wrote with Farnoosh and we could premiere it in Venice and TIFF. Now I am working on new scripts for a short and a feature.

Farnoosh: After The Silence I finished a short film that I co-wrote with Ali and I premiered it in Locarno Film festival and just few days I got the grand prize from AFI. I am also focusing on a new short film.