An Interview with Atefeh Kheirabadi, Mehrad Sepahnia

Please tell us about your background. What or who made you fall in love with cinema? How did you become interested in filmmaking and what did you work on before making Come and Go?

Mehrad: As a child, I used to watch movies on a VHS Cassette, and I was infatuated with them. However, it was at the age of 20 that I found my favorite types of cinemas which are European and East Asian ones between 1940s and 1970s. I made my first short film. It was an experimental film about a traditional ceremony and death in Iran. After that, Atefeh and I started our cooperation that lasts for 11 years and is still going on.


Atefeh: Film makes it possible to feel a narrative through my senses: The sense of seeing, The Sense of hearing and Time feeling. It is right after making a film that I can hear the voices and see the scenes written in a script. This is an aesthetic experience for me.

Mehrad and I started working together in Iran where we were born and grew up. We began with his short film “Flesh” and continued as a team. On this way, we took different experimental styles such as radical filmmaking, Essay Film etc. Before Come and go we made an essay film “the future is feminin” with the same Actors in Come and Go. We were inspired by the Method from the Essay Film of Harun Farocki.


You work as a team. Could you tell us about your process of working together? How do you decide on your roles during production, and how do you make the important decisions? Is it easier to make a film together?

Atefeh: Sometimes it is easy but, from time to time, we face more troubles. As a team, we have to speak and discuss for a long time and, after that, we can at least decide! We call our tandem "Realillusion" because the connection between reality and illusion corresponds with our work style - the combination of experiment and experience. Also it is just a team work that makes Realillusion possible.


Mehrad: We mostly begin with the form of content or form of expression; then, gradually develop a film together. We often come up with different opinions but finally reach an agreement. We do not take separate roles during our productions. Sometimes I direct a project and Atefeh works with actors, and vice versa.



What were the challenges that you faced when making this film? Tell us about the production and your experiences of making the film.

Atefeh: Our biggest challenge in Come and Go was its playwright, Samuel Beckett. Beckett clarifies every single detail; even actors‘ appearances are carefully described. We wanted to have our own adaptation from his play and, at the same time, be faithful to him.


Mehrad: Our shooting was planned for two days. We had to be well-prepared to save time and costs. We worked with a small team, and we had to take on different roles on the shooting day. We were so happy as we made up our minds to choose just one location.


Where did the idea for the film come from? What made you want to adapt a Beckett play?

Mehrad: We had thought about this specific play long ago and were waiting for a proper time to make it.


Atefeh: Come and Go is based on three female characters, all of whom cross borders differently. Therefore, we add the Lines with the feet to the play. It was something like an Empowerment for us!


Come and Go is quite experimental. Tell us about what you were going for. What are the themes and concerns that you wanted to reflect in your film?

Atefeh: Time in Come and Go is not linear. One can play it any time and start to watch. At the same time, we were concerned about repetition and difference. One of our main themes was to perceive time and eternity through repetition and difference.


On a similar note, you worked with a young cast. Tell us about the casting process and the rehearsal stage, and working with inexperienced actresses.

Mehrad: We advised actors and actresses not to play. We wanted them in different situations as they really were. Furthermore, we were inspired by Robert Bresson who made Films in which expression is obtained through relations of images and sounds, and not by mimicry done with gestures and intonations of voice.


What are the advantages and disadvantages of independent filmmaking and working with small budgets? Does it liberate the filmmaker or limit his or her freedom? How do you think filmmakers can overcome the problems that arise when making independent films?

Mehrad: With low budget, one does not have enough chance to make mistakes. It prevents all risk possibilities. In the other hand, one has to be well prepared to face the unexpected.


Atefeh: The experimental film makes the possibility to work with the small budgets and although you can express, what you certainly want. But it limited the ideas and Details of Film to that, what you have nearby you.


Tell us about your festival run. Have film festivals provided you with the experience and exposure you needed? What is your opinion on the fact that most film festivals have become online?

Atefeh: Come and Go is screened in 22 festivals and has won 6 awards. We are so thrilled that 4 of such awards are due to the best experimental film. That would be better to see our audience in person and receive their feedback. Festivals are meant for exchanges - something that cannot be possible via zoom meetings and conferences.

What was the reaction of those who watched your film? Was the feedback what you hoped for?

Mehrad: As an adaptation from Beckett‘s play, our film received far different interpretations. Exactly as we expected!


Please tell us about your future project(s). What are you working on?

Atefeh: Currently, we are working on the short film 7+1 Fragments. It is composed of 8 fragments based on 7 stories of different Women with 7 different colors and 8 Experiments in 7 genres. We are also in Postproduction of another experimental film with the Title BLICK.