In anticipation of the upcoming exhibition curated by Ephemereye in collaboration with the Pembroke Centre for Persian Studies we had briefly interviewed one of the participating artists Maryam Farahzadi. The Cambridge Shahnameh Centre for Persian Studies will be celebrating its 5th Anniversary in 2019. As a part of Shahnameh Forever Series, the Centre will be hosting an art event: Shahnameh Forever 005: Persian Heritage for the World. The event will feature the work of artists inspired by the famous ancient and mediaeval literary and visual Persian Classics.
Maryam Farahzadi is an award winning filmmaker based in Los Angeles. She holds MFA degree in Film & Animation major from Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in New York and a Bachelor Degree in Graphic Design from the University of Tehran in Iran. She was an animator and character designer in Pouya Animation Studio for about five years in Iran and worked on several projects for TV animation series for children and adults. Right now she is working as an Animation Artist at CreatorUp in Los Angeles.
"The story is about a union of a couple in love getting assistance from a joint effort of music and nature performed in Persian miniatures from ancient land of Iran"* Inspired by the poetry of Persian miniatures, Maryam created a very personal animated film where visuals delightfully unfold the narrative while conveying the message of eternal love. Mixing live performance, traditional art with contemporary technique of moving image creates a magical atmosphere of the poetic reality.
Still images from 'The Role of each Fret'. 2013.
One channel digital video. © Maryam Farahzadi.
E. How did it feel working with Persian miniatures?
MF. When I started to think about the idea of my first short film I wanted to perform a very unique idea that no one had done before. Since I have always been obsessed with Persian ancient miniatures and at the sametime wanted to create something new, I decided to bring them to life by animating them and telling my story in their world. So I started to search around for similar projects but I was lucky enough that I couldn’t find something similar to my idea of animating the miniatures and I was glad to be the first one who executing this idea.
I started my project by writing my story based on a Persian poem by Hafiz(Persian ancient Poet). Then started researching about different characters in Persian miniatures in order to find suitable characters for my film. Also created the backgrounds of my film using different miniature environments to make my animation world.
During this procedure I had to study a lot of Persian miniatures and I really enjoyed this process.
E. Is there a major source of inspiration? What story have you used for your animation and why it inspired you?
MF. As I mentioned above, the story of this film was inspired by a poem by Hafiz, who is a famous persian poet whose works are regarded as a pinnacle of Persian Literature and are often found in the homes of people in the Persian-speaking world, who learn his poems by heart and still use them as proverbs and sayings.I also inspired by Shahnameh’s miniatures and other miniatures from different eras.
I really wanted to keep the idea of my film very simple and universal, so anyone with any language or culture could communicate with my film. Although I was inspired by Hafiz Persian poem, I decided to make my own version of the story. The story is basically about “love” which is a universal concept that anybody can understand that.
E. Where are you from? When have you started to make art?
MF. I was born in Tehran, Iran and started making art when I was only 10 years old by drawing cartoons and caricatures.
E. How you decided to become a professional artist? Where were/are you studying?
MF. When I was learning how to draw cartoons I [became] attracted to Animation and Moving Pictures when I was only 14 years old. So I decided to choose art as my profession and study art in university.
Later when I was 18 years old, I was accepted in the Faculty of Fine Arts of the University of Tehran where I studied BFA of Graphic Design, and “The Role of Each Fret” was my BFA thesis which was officially selected in more than 40 film festivals worldwide and received numerous international awards.
Then I moved to the United States to continue my education in art and studied MFA in Film and Animation in Rochester Institute of Technology in New York. and right now I live in Los Angeles and continue my career in film and animation.
E. What media you used before starting to work with moving image?
MF. I used to work with paper and pencil when I was just a young cartoonist and when digital art took over the whole film and animation industry I adapted myself to the new technology. However, I always try to keep some sort of traditional art feeling to my digital animations.
Like “The Role of Each Fret” in which I used the actual miniature paintings and brought them to life by using digital animation magic.
E. Do you consider yourself an Iranian artist? Or more of an international?
MF. I have always wanted to be recognized as an international artist who reflects some sort of her cultural inspiration in her work. And I believe that I have achieved this in my career to some extent.
E. Is there a dream art project that you would like to work on?
MF. I have so many dream projects that I would like to work on and right now I’m so excited about the new personal project that I have just started to work on. However I can’t share more details about it now. I want to keep it as a surprise.
* From the Farhang Foundation Short Film Festival website