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Babak Najafi: Learning to See Sweden – in Teheran


By Daniel Lindvall.

Babak Najafi was born in Teheran in 1975 and came to Sweden as a boy in the mid-1980s. He went to film school (1998–2002), specializing in documentary film-making, and then made a series of well-received short films, mostly documentary, gaining him a ‘Bo Widerberg grant’ in 2004. In the spring of 2010 his first feature film, Sebbepremiered. It won the Best Debut Film award at the Berlin Film Festival. Sebbe portrays the problematic life of a single, Swedish, working-class mother and her teenage son, Sebbe (short for Sebastian), living on a dreary concrete housing estate. Avoiding all the common stereotypes of drug abuse, criminality and racialized culturalism, Najafi looks directly at the effects of class and relative poverty on the lives of his protagonists. When I meet him at the offices of the film’s production company in the quaint Old Town district of Stockholm (a location he finds just a bit too complacently Disneyesque to be inspiring) he’s just home from a visit to New York, where Sebbe has been included in a programme of Swedish films screened by the Film Society of Lincoln Center under the title, ‘Northern Exposures: Social Changes and Sexuality in Swedish Cinema’.

Film International (FI): How was New York?

Najafi (N): It was great fun. It’s always interesting to show a film to an audience from another country, with a different culture, and hear their reactions. Some Americans were shocked. They said: ‘What!? Is this Sweden!?’ They couldn’t believe it. Then there were details in the film that people reacted differently to there than here. There is particularly one detail in the story – the dog [a black stray dog appears at intervals in the film]. People in Sweden go ‘What is this?’ because we don’t have any stray dogs in the streets. The meaning of the dog depends on which country you’re from, your culture, the society you live in…

FI: Here we see the dog as symbolical?

N: Yes, exactly. Whilst especially for one girl, from South Africa, there was nothing to it.

FI: I read that the film programme at the Lincoln Center was supposed to focus on the social history of Sweden. Was there any discussion of class?

N: Not really. There was a lot of focus on Bergman, as always in New York. One thing was quite frightening. Everything is privately financed there. It’s not just films. A friend guided us around town: ‘There’s the opera house. It’s a guy from Texas who built it.’ People with money. So, we went to different screenings and there was this 23-year-old, and everybody was all over him. So I asked, ‘What’s going on?’ ‘He’s just inherited a few million dollars and everyone who wants to start something up, make a film…’

FI: You’ve said that most people behind the camera are middle class, whilst you are working class. Did you become working class when you came to Sweden?

N: Yes, you could say that. It was a strange time in Iran: the 1980s, war against Iraq. When there is a war on everything is possible. From one day to the next everything can change. My family had a good life. A lot of things happened. It got less good. Then it got better again. It was different from one year to the next. Obviously when you emigrate you have to start all over again. That’s how it was for my parents. That’s how it was for me. And in a way it all got a lot tougher, particularly financially. But at the same time I was happy to be rid of the daily bombing.

FI: So, in a way you have a certain cultural background that is useful to you, and that is middle class?

N: Exactly. I also think that one thing that was useful for me was that I was born in a city with twelve million inhabitants. From there I moved to Uppsala [a small university town north of Stockholm] with a population of 60,000. That’s quite a difference. I lived in a city full of contrasts. You could see people living in the streets on nothing. Literally nothing. And people living in palaces. When you grow up in such an environment you have the possibility to observe, you learn to see things. And that helped me when I came to Sweden. Often things are quite fussy here, less concrete, since the contrasts aren’t as glaring. But with this baggage I could still notice things. I remember in school, before the summer break there was always this discussion about where people were going for their holidays. Someone was going to Australia, someone else to the United States and so on. Some remained quiet, but I could see something else in their faces. Maybe because I had seen these faces before, these expressions, in different situations, it was easier for me to read what was going on inside them.

FI: You were very small when the revolution broke out in Iran. Do you have any memories of it? How was your family’s reaction to it?

N: I have loads of memories.

FI: Was it something positive at first, and then…?

N: Yes, it was quite positive… or, both really. I remember that on my dad’s side it was very positive and on my mum’s side they thought it was very negative, since many of them were royalists and liked the shah. For me, as a child, it was a very exciting time. There was a curfew. You couldn’t leave the house after nine. We spent a lot of time at my grandmother’s place. In Teheran many houses have flat roofs, and you can go up on them. We stood there and watched people running around. I think the only way to survive is to adapt. We played football during bombing raids. They were shooting at Iraqi bombers and we were playing football in the street! I think it’s the only way you can handle having this in your everyday life.

FI: Were they politically involved in your family, on your father’s side?

N: My father used to be, but he lost so much through his involvement, particularly economically. In the end I think he just felt that, ‘No, I can’t change anything anyway.’

FI: What did he do for a living?

N: Most of the time he was an entrepreneur. He had an import–export company, trucks going to Europe, mostly, but also to other parts of Asia. The current regime wanted to control all economic activity. There was to be no trade if they didn’t have a hand in it. There was a time when we lost almost everything.

FI: Do you come from a big family?

N: Yes, I have siblings left in Iran, my maternal grandmother, cousins. That was also a great change, since when we came to Sweden it was only me and my sister, mum and dad. When we lived in Iran there was always a lot of people at our place, a lot going on, many friends.

FI: I read somewhere that you used to watch a lot of movies. Was that also a way to escape? What did you watch?

N: On the telly there were only two types of films. On the one hand there was propaganda films aimed at a certain age group, those to be recruited for the war. And then you had American B-movies with John Wayne, dubbed into Persian. They were really crap films, but when they were dubbed all sorts of jokes were added that had nothing to do with the story, and suddenly they were a big success and everyone was watching them and finding them hilarious.

Then we had a neighbour who bought a VHS player in 1983. That was a real novelty. They were very generous and allowed everyone to draw cables from their flat so that every flat was connected. It was like having our own video club. They picked up the phone and said, ‘Film time!’ It was always a relief, with everything that was going on outside the house.

FI: What films did you see?

N: A lot of Steve McQueen. I don’t know how many times we saw The Great Escape. And then there was Jackie Chan. He was very popular in those days.

FI: Did you see any popular Iranian cinema?

N: No, none. In those days Iran produced mostly war films.

FI: I was thinking about films made before the revolution…

N: Yes, there were comedies from the 1960s, in black and white.

FI: You came to Sweden in the mid-1980s. You were 11 years old. Was it a shock, or…?

N: Yes, it was two different worlds. There were a lot of negative aspects, but much that was positive also. On the whole, I liked it. Maybe it’s thanks to my parents that I have a certain curiosity – it’s always interesting to visit a new environment, meet new people. And I enjoyed learning a new language. I liked that period; it was very educational. In the beginning I found the language difficult. Before we came here, I thought people spoke German, so I started to learn a few words of German. Great disappointment! Then, one night, I dreamed about my grandmother. She had never been to Sweden, but in my dream she spoke Swedish, and I woke up and thought that I had understood everything she had said, so now I knew the language. It was a very special period in my life. One thing that I enjoyed was that I got the chance to meet other Iranians, many of them from other parts of the country. It’s a big country. Often one city can be so different from another that they are like two different countries with different languages, different food cultures. Suddenly I had the possibility to get to know my own culture in ways I hadn’t been able to before. And then there were people from Chile. Wow, that was far away! There were people from China. That was even further away…! So it was a great school of life. Sometimes I get nostalgic and miss those days.

FI: Do you think it was easier to arrive here in those days?

N: Absolutely. Society was much kinder. There was a certain naivety. Now attitudes are much harder and everything is more complex. Maybe it has something to do with communications, also. In those days, you picked up the phone at home: ‘See you there and there, 12.30.’ There weren’t so many options. Today there’s so much going on…

FI: We’re losing focus on each other…?

N: Precisely, yes. Even young people were much softer, kinder in some way, than today. Sweden is a different country today than it was in the mid-1980s. One thing that was important for me: we weren’t supposed to move here for good. It was more a kind of vacation. But then the war ended and there were no plans to return. That’s when I realized that this was where I was going to live and it became very important for me to integrate. This was my home.

FI: How come you chose to become a film-maker?

N: No idea. I have no good story to tell. I think it’s simply that I always liked listening to stories and telling stories. It started early. There weren’t a lot of video games and things like that around our house. I read books, listened to stories. Then, in Uppsala there was a video workshop. One day, someone was cleaning out a storage room and I went in and saw all these cables and big cameras. He had put a camera on a tripod and it was on. I asked if I could have a look. And then I looked through the viewer, and the camera was facing the next room, and it was so fascinating how I could see what was going on there through this little… It could record everything. Then it was obvious to me that I wanted to work with cameras.

FI: You chose to study documentary film…

N: When I got to the point that it was time to choose an education I thought that I could get more out of meeting real people, going to real places. You learn the craft and you get to share the life story of another human being at the same time. Everyone out there has a story to tell. It’s such a treasure. It’s about looking at someone’s face and asking yourself: ‘What kind of person is that? What’s her baggage?’ It’s always about telling a story. Someone said that even feature films are documentaries as they document the work of the actor.

FI: But when it was time to make your first full-length film it became a feature film, fiction…

N: Yes, it turned out that way. To me it was always only about telling a story. The format as such is unimportant. It can be full-length, short, feature, documentary, animation. You have a story that you feel is worth telling.

FI: So, it’s not that from now on you make feature films?

N: No, if I run into someone and feel that she’s got an exciting story and it will work out best as a documentary, that’s what I will do. I think you need to put the story first. Making films is so costly, takes so much time and energy that sometimes it can make you feel guilty, feel that it would be better to spend all these resources on something more concrete. But we need stories too. And then I think it’s very important that you do something worth doing. It can be pure entertainment… I respect those that do what they do 110 per cent and are honest about it. I saw Avatar, and really enjoyed it. Others would say that it’s crap because it’s just entertainment.

FI: You made Sebbe, which is about class and about a blond Swedish teenager and his Swedish mum and so on. You made a conscious choice…

N: Yes. I think that often when you see similar themes [concerning relative poverty], there’s a connection to alcoholism or drug abuse or criminality and people with immigrant backgrounds, and then I can feel that a lot of people can distance themselves from it, ‘It’s about those people, not me.’ I didn’t want to give the audience that possibility. I wanted to show completely ‘ordinary’ people, here and now. Some people see the mother as an alcoholic, but I never saw her that way. Sure, she drinks, but no more than other people. She drinks twice in the film. And they are not criminals.

FI: There’s a scene – it’s Sebbes birthday, he’s 15, and they go out together. The mother lets him drink from her beer. But there’s no moralizing about it. In a way it’s maybe the happiest scene in the film…?

N: (Chuckles) That’s your interpretation…

FI: Has that scene been controversial? Has anybody commented on it?

N: Do we have to go into that? I’d rather not. Yes, some people have criticized it, reacted to it. My ambition was never to moralize. It is what it is. I don’t lecture. A moralist watching the film might perhaps take offence from that scene.

FI: To me this scene makes it very clear that the real problem for Sebbe and his mother is her working conditions, her low salary, their housing conditions and so on. All the rest, her drinking, are symptoms.

N: Yes. Another thing that is important to me – I often believe that it is harder to be poor here in Sweden than in a poor country. You have to live up to different demands here as a citizen. More is expected of you in order for you to function socially. Again, going back to school, if you can’t say that you’re going to Australia for your holidays you’re not part of the group. If you can’t afford expensive clothes you’re not part of the group. So, you have to perform in a certain way, whilst in another country you may be poor but so is everyone else. It doesn’t matter, you’re happy anyway, you’re on the same level.

FI: Perhaps, once you have food, somewhere to live, clothes, then it is relative poverty that matters, inequality?

N: Yes, precisely. That’s how it is. We’ve taken care of all these elementary material needs that we have. But it’s not enough to have a roof over your head and food in your stomach. For others, that would mean having taken care of the day’s burden, but here there are other demands.

FI: Something else that I liked about the film is that it shows actual work, production and circulation. There’s the mother delivering papers, workers dynamiting a mountain wall, trucks circulating everywhere, all the way to the dumping site for electronic garbage, where Sebbe sometimes hangs out. Was work an important motif for you?

N: Yes. I also believe it’s a result of filming Sebbe in Gothenburg. It’s a working-class town. There’s a certain mentality that I like. Stockholm is the city of the manager. Gothenburg is the workers’ town. You only have to look at the surrounding nature to see the difference. Maybe 15, 20 minutes outside of Stockholm you can find a national park that is unexploited, with a 400-year-old oak tree, whilst in other parts of Sweden you don’t find those places. There’s been a completely different kind of production, another mentality, and I thought that this was also an important detail to show. And then, of course, purely emotionally it contributes to the story, it’s an exciting situation – you have eight tons of explosives and they’re blowing up a mountain wall, that’s a very cinematic image…

FI: Do you feel that issues of class have sometimes had to take a back seat to issues of ethnicity and multiculturalism? Sometimes it’s said that immigrants are the new working class…

N: It could be like that [addressing the second part of the question]. At the same time there are a lot of people with foreign roots that definitely aren’t working class. But [documentary film-maker] Stefan Jarl once said that the people who lived in the places where he made his films in the 1960s and early 1970s have now left and immigrants have replaced them. It makes me sad when I think about it, because I want to believe in Sweden. It’s a fantastic country, with amazing possibilities, compared to other countries where people don’t have the same chances. I have friends in France, for instance, and talking to them I’m struck by the harsh social climate they have to deal with every day.

Taking her cue from the comparisons between cities and countries, Snezana, a Yugoslavian-born photographer sitting in at the interview, comments about the still bombed-out cityscape of her birth town, Belgrade. It turns out that Najafi has a story to tell about the former Yugoslav capital.

N: In 1980 the war started in Iran. I mentioned that my father had an import–export company. They had something that needed to be delivered to Austria, a crane or something, and my dad decided that we were all to go. It was an entire caravan of trucks. And me and my mother and my little sister came along. It was like a road movie. When we got to Belgrade everything escalated. Saddam had just received new arms from the United States. There were bombing raids every day. My father decided that we would stay in Belgrade. He got us a flat and everything was set. We remained there for ten days.

FI: What happened?

N: It was my mother, she wanted to return to her family. There was a bit of drama going on, whether we would stay or not… But I’m happy that we ended up in Sweden. Though I wouldn’t mind it if they turned the heat up a bit!

FI: Returning to the issue of multiculturalism, do you see a danger in homogenizing immigrants by this focus on ethnicity? Did that have something to do with your choice to make a film about class instead, showing that class is after all not about culture or ethnical origins?

N: Yes, absolutely. I think it’s a bit sad, this insistence on portraying people with foreign origins as criminals, or, you know, like some kind of clowns…

FI: Sometimes I see two images of immigrants that are really two sides of the same coin, equally racist. On the one hand you have the far right, the neo-fascists, saying, ‘They’re all criminals, all the same.’ On the other hand you have the official, parliamentarian right going, ‘Oh, they’re so hard-working, they do all these tough jobs with low wages and isn’t it great!’

N: (Laughs) Absolutely! I did an experiment the other week. It was here outside, in the street. I was smoking and a taxi driver came up to me. He had seen a film I’d made and he said, ‘You should come with me some day. The clients I have… You should come along and see who they are.’ So I did. We went to Djursholm [a wealthy suburb of Stockholm] and… you know, upper-class places. Of his passengers, eight or nine out of ten were black-market cleaners. I got to talk to them and, as you say, they said [about their employers], ‘They are so happy because I never make a fuss. I get a little money and it’s enough…’

FI: And then they confront ‘Swedish’ workers with this image, ‘You’re too spoiled!’ and make out that defending collective bargaining is racist. There’s a risk that this creates a self-fulfilling prophecy perhaps, that we end up with campaigns like the one in Britain, ‘British jobs for British workers’.

N: Sometimes I fear that. It is easy to use people who are already in distress, you know which buttons to press. It’s an awful thought. But if you look at reality… I asked one of these girls, she was from Kenya, ‘Alright, you have low wages. You hate your job. What’s the worst thing about it all?’ She went quiet for a while, then she said, ‘I’m so damned lonely!’ I found that so sad.

FI: Sometimes, in Swedish cinema, there’s an image of countryside people versus city people that is similar to this.

N: Yes, I think that’s awful. I feel sick when I see how people from the northern parts of Sweden, particularly, are portrayed in Swedish films. It’s terrible. There are people who are a lot more sophisticated than these Stockholmers who run around clueless. They know all about what designer clothes to use but nothing about important things, whilst this person in his house far up north, far away from all this, is a lot more knowledgeable. There’s a lot of prejudice. It’s just like when you say, ‘He’s a darkie, he’s a criminal, he likes drugs…’

FI: Did you ever feel any pressure to make ‘immigrant films’?

N: All the time, though slightly less now than before. I made a short fiction film a few years ago, Elixir, and after that I was handed stories about people with foreign origins all the time. But, you know, you have to show some kind of respect when you’re offered to do something and it’s fully financed. Still, once I got angry enough to go to SVT Drama [the drama department of the Swedish public television corporation] – they had asked me to do a series for them – and say, ‘I have to ask, why do you want me to do this?’ ‘Well’, they went quiet for a while, ‘we thought you could make it a bit funny.’ It’s as if you called all Swedes ‘IKEA’ or portrayed all blond women as bimbos. There was no series.

FI: You made this film about a single mum. Do you think women have a particularly hard time when the social climate gets harder?

N: Men are having just as hard a time.

FI: So you could have made it about a single dad?

N: Yes, yes. What interests me is family. There’s a given dramatic quality here. Say that we are friends. I say something stupid to you. We’ve been friends four or five years. You ask me to go to hell. You never want to see me again. Fine, we never see each other again. Take the same situation, but we’re siblings. You ask me to go to hell. I do. Two years pass, and then you start missing your brother. There are these ties and we can’t get rid of them, for the rest of our lives. Our fathers are our fathers, our mothers are our mothers, our siblings are our siblings. And there’s a drama right there that I tried to make use of. Even if they [Sebbe and his mum] split up in the end, the ties are still there.

Our photographer, Snezana, points out that, seeing the trailer, she first thought the film was a documentary.

N: That makes me very pleased to hear. In this genre authenticity is number one. If you don’t believe in the characters, the situation, everything falls down. We worked a lot with that. We had finished casting the film a year in advance and repeated the scenes with the actors. Not too much, then you kill the life of the text, but just to come up with new ideas and so that Sebbe [debutant Sebastian Hiort af Ornäs] and Eva [Melander] would become comfortable with each other. So, when filming started it was just a day like any other. We aimed for this authenticity, a feeling of ‘Is this happening for real, or?’ I like it if the audience is not quite sure about what it is they see. There are many films that work quite brilliantly like that. I have a lot of favourite directors…

‘Von Trier?’, suggests Snezana.

N: Nah, I’m not really into that. I liked Breaking the Waves. But I think it’s all a bit too much Danish angst or something. I like film-makers that don’t put a political idea or philosophical thought first, as a premise – then I think it’s better to write a book or a thesis. Film is like music to me. You’re sad, you put on a song, two minutes later you’re happy, dancing, or whatever emotion was aimed at, and surreptitiously a thought sneaks in, something you’re trying to tell about the present.

FI: I read in an interview that you had said that your next project would also have a political dimension. Aren’t you afraid of being categorized as a ‘political film-maker’?

N: No, I’ve stopped being afraid. They categorize you anyway.

FI: The way you work, it reminds me of the Dardenne brothers or Ken Loach, for instance. You mix pros and amateurs, you’re building a team around you…

N: Yes, well, they are great film-makers, absolutely. I think that they, Widerberg in his time, Milos Forman when he was still in Czechoslovakia, did the same. There are many.

FI: Did you see the early films of Widerberg?

N: Absolutely.

FI: You received a ‘Widerberg grant’ a few years ago. I think that his films from the 1960s are among the best to have been made in Sweden.

N: Yes. When I went to film school it was Bergman or Widerberg. They were our inheritance. And, with all respect, Bergman represents a world that is very foreign to me. There’s always this intellectual thought that is number one, which then leads to an emotion. But when I see Widerberg, take Kvarteret Korpen [Raven’s End (1963)], the son and the father, the father is plastered. It hits you directly. There’s something raw and direct in Widerberg that never turns to gratuitous exploitation. But there’s an explosivity in the way he tells a story. [He goes] straight for the emotion. But at the same time, you start thinking, there’s an analysis behind it all… He documents a period. He tells us about this country, his time, his culture.

FI: Widerberg, of course, criticized Bergman’s films publicly in the 1960s. I can feel that there’s something liberating about a time when that was allowed. It feels almost banned today.

N: There was always a ban against criticizing Bergman. There are some people within the art world that you aren’t allowed to criticize. You feel it clearly. I’m saying, those who are gone are gone. But among those active today, no names, there are people that can do just about anything and get away with it. It’s a kind of journalistic fascism or something. And no shadow over Bergman, he was a great artist. Just thinking about the sheer number of films he made makes me feel all weak…

FI: But he also had a lot of chances…

N: Yes, absolutely, things were different in those days. But just coping physically and mentally. I was a wreck after completing Sebbe and then to imagine making another 59 films or so… I might have time for three more, at the most.

FI: Your reviews were, on the whole, very positive. But I noticed that the most tepid ones seem to have been in publications linked to the labour movement…

N: Right… (Chuckles)

FI: A couple of reviewers said that there was a ‘lack of motivation’ behind the mother’s problems in coping. I thought there was ample motivation, working conditions, housing, grieving Sebbe’s dead father…

N: Yes.

FI: Do you think that sometimes today the labour movement finds it difficult to discuss class as an explanatory category?

N: Yes, well, what can I say… Sometimes maybe… I don’t want to talk about it. But there’s another thing that I think is interesting. I made another film about a single mother, a documentary, and I showed it to a few people and among them was this girl whom I knew to be a single mother herself. A young girl. She had two kids. And she hated the film. Literally hated it. She was so angry when she saw it. To me it was really interesting to hear her opinions. When we sat talking, after a while, I started to realize that she wasn’t really criticizing the film. It was just that it hit too close to home. So to protect herself she just closed down, pushed it away. It got too difficult to cope with.

FI: What film was that?

N: Aprikosgatan 13A [13A Apricot Street]. I made it about ten years ago. And that was really one of the reasons that I made Sebbe. People said, ‘What do you mean, “poverty”? It doesn’t exist. What are you talking about?’ There was this girl that I ran into. It was 1999, 2000. She was a single mum. She had three kids. Two daughters and a son. She lived in a two-bedroom flat. She and the youngest daughter slept in the living room. Then she had a son of 15 and another daughter of 17, who lived in the other two rooms. And to me it was… I was stunned! A Swedish family, ‘real’ Swedes. ‘Is this true?’, you know, ‘Is this reality?’ I spent two weeks with them, filming. I had breakfast with them, dinner when they got back from school, filmed the Sunday cleaning, all the stuff that went on. And when I shared their everyday life, I thought that this is a face of Sweden that you don’t often get to see. And when we see it, we associate it with junkies, mentally sick people, alcoholics. But they were just ordinary people. There was no substance abuse, the kids went to school, everything was the way it is here. The boy wanted to play ice hockey. He needed equipment. And I felt so sorry for him. He loved hockey, all his friends played hockey. And I felt so sorry for the mother who was working her ass off just to make ends meet, and, of course, she couldn’t afford this expensive equipment. And it was so interesting to see… I sat in their kitchen. We had dinner. It was pancakes, for the fourth time… And then, this discussion. And here we are again: if you live in a poor country… What ice hockey? You take a plastic ball and go out in the street. Everyone else is playing football and it’s fun and you’re part of the group. Here you need club membership and equipment…

FI: Winning the Best Debut Film award in Berlin must have opened doors for you?

N: It feels like that. I don’t really want to believe it. I take a day at a time. Again, in the end it’s all about telling stories.

FI: Are you working on something at the moment?

N: I’m working on a few stories. Nothing that I want to talk about. Not to be secretive. It’s just that it took five years to make Sebbe. It might take five more before I get to make my next film. And if I compare the first day, when you start working on a project, and the last day, when it’s finished, it’s two completely different things. But I’m working on a few texts and I met a few people who work in the United States and in Germany. I think it’s interesting to seek collaborations with people from other countries…

FI: Do you want to make films abroad?

N: I’d love to. But don’t misunderstand me. A lot of people say, ‘I’d love to go to Hollywood…’ I was in Algeria and did research for a film and it would be a dream to make a film there. But it’s all about telling stories, it doesn’t really matter where.

FI: Iran?

N: Sure. China, Africa, South America…

FI: But you don’t have a special feeling about making a film in Iran?

N: Yes, absolutely. The thing about Iran is that I have so many childhood memories from there. I have so much material that I could use. If I go to Algeria I’m in the present, I meet people, see places, collect impressions. But there’s a special kind of nostalgia surrounding childhood memories. You are a little bit in love with them perhaps, and, of course, it would be wonderful to make a film in Iran. I think so…

FI: And in that case, a childhood story?

N: Yes, and that would then be my final film.

FI: When you’re about 90 or so?

N: I don’t know about that. Sometimes I feel that you have a couple of stories inside.

FI: So, you can already imagine a future where you no longer make movies?

N: Yes, definitely. There might come a day, I’ve completed a film, maybe that one, and suddenly I feel that it’s enough.

FI: What would you like to do then? Do you have something particular that you think about, like ‘That’s what I’d like to do’?

N: Yes, I’d like to be a carpenter or a gardener.

FI: Funny, that’s what I often say too…

N: My father became a farmer in Sweden. He lived in the countryside outside of Uppsala with cows and sheep and everything. I used to help him. Great job. Gardener, I mean. Cows can be a bit of a handful.

Daniel Lindvall is the editor-in-chief of Film International.

1 Comment for “Babak Najafi: Learning to See Sweden – in Teheran”

  1. […] at a local junk yard, which he either hoarded or vandalised. Amongst all the neglect and suffering, Babak Najafi(Interview by FilmInt) the director managed to afford us a few glimpse into Sebbe’s happiness – […]

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