Mahnaz Mohammadit’s feature film debut follows the dramatic story of an Iranian single mother, whose decisions, dictated by the society and traditions, make her abandon her son in search of a more societal accepted life.
WEEKEND: “Son-Mother” addresses the Iranian dated norms which stem from patriarchy and orthodox religiousness and inborn prejudice against independent women through the life of Leila and her son. What did encourage you to tell this story as your feature film debut?
I have personally experienced the devastating consequences of outdated norms perpetuated by the patriarchy, and I believe that I share this with like-minded independent women everywhere. I see our collective struggle and that encourages me.
You are well-known for your provocative documentaries on social issues as well as your activism, how risky is it for you to tell this side of the Iranian society?
The truth is that I have never thought about the risks. My beliefs and values, that I derive from the same society, guide my activism and artistic journey.
What is the important message to get through to your international audience with the story of “Son-Mother”? And did you take any precautions to engage with the international audience?
I really did not have a particular audience in mind at the time. This is a universal story that resonates with audiences from every corner of the world; audiences who can see their lives and the stories of our shared human sufferings projected onto the screen. At the Zurich Film Festival, a young woman understood the film as the story of her father, a French middle-aged man empathized with the pain and suffering of Amir for he had also been separated from his family. While in Rome, young students sympathized with Amir to the extent and one even claimed that he would have done the same.
“This is a universal story that resonates with audiences from every corner of the world; audiences who can see their lives and the stories of our shared human sufferings projected onto the screen.”
The film’s viewpoint switches from the mother to the son’s perspective. What were your thoughts behind this drastic change?
I want to illustrate how Leila‘s decision directly affects her son. I want to show how, regardless of the seeming absence of the other, their decisions are intrinsically inter-winded, their fates are tied to one another, no matter how personal the decision seems.
As a first time director and female filmmaker which challenges did you find during the process? What did you experience on the way?
Whether it is a feature film, a documentary or any other project, the greatest challenge, for me, is to familiarize myself with my own pain and suffering and move beyond them. I am seeking the answers that help me understand myself better. Every new experience gets me closer to a new sense of awareness and understanding that then guides me into my next project.
Shedding light on this subject is extremely important for women’s rights fight. Are you planning to keep on doing so in the future? Do you have any upcoming projects you would like to share with us?
I have thus far been guided by my own values and principles, and if they have contributed to the women’s rights fights then that is a remarkably fortunate coincidence. I focus on societal sufferings and injustices that surround our everyday lives, and those are not limited to a specific group or fight. Nonetheless, I am currently working on my own script, a documentary focusing on human trafficking and the plight of immigrants. I hope to find the right producers.
“I have thus far been guided by my own values and principles, and if they have contributed to the women’s rights fights then that is a remarkably fortunate coincidence.”