Interview with Rafi Pitts
Concorso internazionale Jury
Rafi Pitts is one of the most interesting Iranian directors of the last generation. He was in Locarno in 2004 with his documentary Abel Ferrara Not Guilty, but he is a long time regular of the Festival. «I came in Locarno for the first time in 1995» he told us, and this year is one of the jurors for the Concorso internazionale. Here’s how Pitts remembers Abbas Kiarostami, the great Iranian Maestro that died a few weeks ago.
Mr. Pitts, as you know this year's Festival is dedicated to the memory of Abbas Kiarostami. As an Iranian director, how important was his figure for you?
I met Abbas for the first time when I was 10, even before he shot his first film. He was a father figure for me. Without Kiarostami there would be no Iranian cinema, he opened the doors to all Iranian filmmakers and he was the most political of our directors. He changed the country from the inside with his movies and he did it with poetry. Ta'm e guilass (The Taste of Cherry) is a political landmark, nobody spoke about suicide in Iran before that and we were all allowed to do it right after. My third film would have been impossible without Ta'm e guilass (The Taste of Cherry). I miss him so much and he’s impossible to replace.
I’d like to know more about the political importance of Kiarostami.
I saw my first film in 1977, I was 10 and I was surprised because it was a political movie from the left wing. Then the revolution came quickly afterwards and I left the country during the Iran-Iraq war. I rediscovered Kiarostami while attending film school in London. We live in a world of political correctness and we are all expected to say something politically correct in our movies. Abbas went beyond that, he worked from the inside with diplomacy to move the walls of Iranian movie industry further back.
How did your career start?
I started working in the Iranian film industry when I was 8 as a child actor. The movie was The Cuckoo, a film that Abbas loved very much. I lived beneath a post production studio in Teheran and that was my playground, so I met every Iranian filmmaker since I was very young, so in some ways the film industry is like home to me.
I have a peculiar background. My father is English, even if he didn’t raise me, he left me when I was 5 and my mother raised me, and as you know everything’s different when mom is taking care of you.
That’s why your movies are quite particular for an Iranian director…
I attend the film school in London and now I live between Paris and Los Angeles. But as a filmmaker you need to find out who you are, so I came back to Iran to discover if they understood what I want to express. I don’t believe there’s a national way to make movies and no director can represent an entire country. Pasolini was Pasolini, just like Cassavetes was Cassavetes. Kiarostami was slightly different because he cared a lot about his people and allowed other filmmakers to express themselves. Sometimes he was frustrated about that, because some expressions were too violent.
Alessandro De Simone