Are you still comfortable making films under the constraints imposed by the Iranian government?
"The biggest issue now for Iranian cinema is just to find a way to survive."
Well, the situation is undoubtedly difficult and for everyone, I think if there weren't these constraints I'd have stayed in my country and worked in Iran. So I think we all found our own solution for going out and working. Some people stayed in Iran and dealt with the censorship and tried to work however they could in their own country. Some others like me decided to go and work elsewhere. And others just left the country and live elsewhere, whereas I still live in my country. I'm not judging any of these choices. Each of us does what we can, and that's the only way. But of course the situation is difficult for everyone.
Last year, when "A Separation" won the Oscar, the award put a lot of attention on Iranian cinema around the world. Just last week we heard that this year's Oscar submission would be withdrawn because of a boycott. I wonder if you have any thoughts about whether or not that's a problem for Iranian cinema today.
The truth is this situation in Iran is so serious and so bad now that this kind of event doesn't even really have an impact. I think what's really at stake now in Iran is just the economy's survival. People really have to struggle and the film industry is, of course, under the same pressure. The biggest issue now for Iranian cinema is just to find a way to survive. So this event in a time of peace could have an impact. But now the situation is in such turmoil, and we are in the middle of a war -- even if it is a cold war -- so this kind of event doesn't even touch us.
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Let's get back to discussing your films. In the United States, most studios are abandoning film in favor of digital. A lot of filmmakers who have been working before digital video was so popular see this as a problem. But you've been able to adapt because you started shooting on digital fairly early on. Do you think the general transition to digital filmmaking is a positive step?
Cinema doesn't need any specific medium or any specific way to exist, and it can go on existing through any technical evolution, so for myself, yes, I use digital. I have to tell you that, 40 years ago when I started making films, I would use film with a digital approach. So this is a way of working, a concept of filming, rather than the tool itself. Tools change, but then you have your own way of working regardless of the tools that you're given.
Because you've been working so long and there are certain expectations an audience brings to your work, when you start a new project how do you know that it will provide you the right kind of challenge?
It's all about finding a new challenge. This is the only reason I go on making films, no matter in what country, no matter in what language. I need novelty. I need to make something unheard of for myself. Otherwise, I have other ways of expressing myself. I take photographs and I write poetry, which is enough for me to go on peacefully for the rest of my life. But if I go on making films, it's because I need novelty and I need new challenges. And I keep on finding them. Just before you came in, I was explaining a scene from my next project to my translator. I was asking her how she found the scene because the idea I have for my next project is very anti-cinematographic, but that's the reason why it's very interesting and challenging for me.