German filmmaker Andreas Rochholl spoke to Business Doc Europe about his EFM doc The Female Voice of Iran, which screened February 26. The film shows the digital method employed to defy a ban on Iranian women wishing to express themselves via song.
An anonymous woman creates a talisman named Negar to gather isolated voices from across the country in a garden within the middle of Iran “to make their dreams come true”.
“Solo singing for women in Iran is forbidden,” Rochholl stresses of the film that was financed on the crowdfunding site Startnext. In 2015 he embarked on an odyssey to all corners of Iran with Iranian ethnomusicologist Yalda Yazdani “to meet and film female singers in all parts of this multi-ethnic country.”
“In Europe we are not so used to it… to see that oriental way of life, and to see how these extremely strong characters survive and celebrate their lives,” he adds. “Music is an expression of daily life, and every situation within daily life is a moment when you can start to make music.”
“Yalda was my inspiration to start to make the film about [this subject] because she was travelling and recording those voices. Her wish was very simple, they are to be heard in the world.”
Rochholl mainly focusses on women born between 1980 1985, for whom the Iran/Iraq war remains a traumatic part of their lives. “We are so close to their daily life and it is so amazing to see this rich culture, which is why for us this film makes really a difference. It’s [a subject that is] rarely seen, it’s not the view from outside, it’s not an analysis about political issues. We really come very close to the daily life of this amazing rich country.”
At EFM, Rocholl says how “we are looking now for the first step into the world of film festivals. We are looking for a world distributor, because those voices really have [such] value that the world [must] have the chance to listen to them. They are so beautiful, so diverse that we have a mission to bring them into the world.”
And how does the director believe the Iranian woman will react when/if they get the opportunity to see the film?
“I will travel back to Iran in a few months and I will try and take the chance to show it to them, of course,” he says.
“They will be overwhelmed, Of course we are in contact. We have an Instagram channel and there they see the progress of the film. This film is a hope for them…because Iran is a vast country and our film [connected] them, and this was a very touching moment, from the border to Afghanistan, from the border to Turkey, to Iraq, from the Persian gulf, they met in the middle and it was a very emotional moment.”
“This [project] has enriched my life,” he concludes.