Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 
Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable

The Jerusalem Syndrome: How One Aspiring Filmmaker Brought the Personal to the Professional, If Not Peace to the Middle East

By Sohrab Pirayesh | Indiewire October 16, 2012 at 11:30AM

I grew up wanting to make movies because I dreamed of creating a world that made sense to me — a world where even the most overwhelming conflict could be resolved, and a lesson could always be learned. So, naturally, when I finally struck out to make my first film, I ended up in the Middle East.
2
"The Jerusalem Syndrome" still

I grew up wanting to make movies because I dreamed of creating a world that made sense to me — a world where even the most overwhelming conflict could be resolved, and a lesson could always be learned. So, naturally, when I finally struck out to make my first film, I ended up in the Middle East.

This is not surprising. As an Iranian-American, all my life I’ve been torn between disparate sides. My Iranian mother and father spent the bulk of their 20-year marriage at each other’s throats. Unable to take the chaos, my older sister went back to Iran to get away from them, and I, a bit player in the saga, was powerlessly left to hope that I could bring these warring parents, whom I loved dearly, together.

We moved around a lot: Tehran, Los Angeles, Toronto and Pittsburgh. Every September, I was the new kid with the unpronounceable name and suspect background. In the second grade, during Operation Desert Storm, a schoolmate told everyone I was an Iraqi. Nervous that the mob would turn against me, I hurriedly explained in my broken English the geo-political and cultural differences between Iran and Iraq — that Iran too had been in a war against Saddam and as such my American friends and I were more alike than different. The crowd dissipated that day, but my unease did not.

Lacking a sense of control at home, I dreamed of making films. Films would allow me to reconstruct the world as a utopia, where people weren’t so much overwhelmed by their circumstances but more active participants in their destinies. I would create a world where all conflict and suffering was a down payment towards wisdom. My characters would do as I wrote because I was convinced that people couldn’t be trusted to do the right thing on their own.

After graduation from Berkeley and a stint as an art director at Fox Broadcasting in Los Angeles, I was searching for a path and decided to create a series of short web videos about important issues. They were supposed to be a guide for young people by young people that brought context to things like Darfur, malaria, global warming, etc. On a late-night call with my college friend Todd, the discussion led to Israel and Palestine. I had always avoided this issue as too thorny for a term-paper subject. Now, though, given the growing conflict between Islam and the West post-9/11, I was drawn to it.

While Todd’s an atheist, his mom is Christian, his dad’s Jewish and they are also divorced. That, along with my closeted Muslimness, would add a nice symmetry to the project I was now cooking up. Todd had just finished law school and wanted to take a celebratory trip to Cancun or someplace, and I, to the chagrin of his girlfriend, slowly convinced him to come to the Middle East instead. Undeterred by the recklessness of my scheme, we bought an HD video camera and soon were on a plane to Israel.

I had decided to turn the Middle East conflict into a film, and like any good film hero, I would find a way to resolve the conflict.

This article is related to: Filmmaker Toolkit, The Jerusalem Syndrome, Kickstarter , Filmmaker Toolkit: Crowdfunding, Filmmaker Toolkit: Documentaries






Check out Indiewire on LockerDome on LockerDome



Awards Season Spotlight

Contender Conversations

Indiewire celebrates the best and brightest from Independent film, Hollywood, and foreign cinema.

More