Expat view

Raha Razavi Ghashghai: “There is fantastic diversity of taste in cinema”

Raha Razavi Ghashghai moved to Luxembourg in 2019 and is on the artistic committee of the Luxembourg City Film Festival.  Romain Gamba / Maison Moderne

Raha Razavi Ghashghai moved to Luxembourg in 2019 and is on the artistic committee of the Luxembourg City Film Festival.  Romain Gamba / Maison Moderne

Iranian director Raha Razavi Ghashghai has been mentored by such luminaries as Abbas Kiarostami and Asghar Farhadi. After years of working on documentary and experimental film, she recently completed writing her first short fiction film.

Duncan Roberts: So, how did you arrive in Luxembourg and why?

Raha Razavi Ghashghai: In July 2018 I came to France for a long summer of travel. I went to the Avignon performance festival and Rencontres d’Arles photography festival. I reached out to friends in groups to see if anyone was close by, I was in Paris at the time, and one said that they had just moved here and that it was just 2 hours and 45 minutes away. It was only when on the road that I saw the border signs and realised I was going to another country.

I was shown the Grund, Mullerthal, Mudam… so many spots in just three days, and I just fell in love. It’s very strange for me. I have experienced Berlin, Paris, Prague, Milan… many European cities. But none of them had this combination of a rural canvas, with a fantastic lifestyle in addition to a dynamic business environment. I went back, and I told my husband that I had this feeling about this country. It’s really cool. We did more research and came back together at Christmas 2018. And he said, maybe try again during the Luxembourg City Film Festival [in March 2019], because at the end of the day my work was in film, to see if I could make a bond with this community.

I met Alexis [Juncosa, LuxFilmFest art director] at a party and we talked about film and the Luxembourg situation. Then I met some other directors and producers, and I realised that things were possible, it went very smoothly. So, I decided to move and the best, fastest, way was by applying for university. Six months later, in September 2019, I was here.

And then you were invited to join the festival’s artistic committee?

I met Alexis again at some events, film premiers and this kind of thing, and we spoke about cinema and our opinions, and we didn’t always agree, which was important, I think. So, then Alexis invited me to join the committee because we understood each other and also, we have diverse taste in film. I also had some experience on juries for photography and video projects. I am really grateful to Alexis for inviting me to be part of this vibrant experience.

So, from your experience, what do you think of the film industry here in Luxembourg?

It is more interesting than I expected, honestly. At first, I thought it is a small country with lots of passion for culture and for art. But the more I investigated I saw that, no, this is a really serious industry, especially if you compare the number of people involved with the population of the country. And the other thing is that there is fantastic diversity of taste in cinema, because you have Italians, you have French cinema, you have a touch of Nordic, and, most surprising for me, even German impressionism. And that showed me that I can say what I want here, I can tell my stories and be myself. People are not locked into just one mindset or mentality.

What is the status of your short film?

Writing is done and I am in Iran now to meet people and find the team to shoot it, probably in late February in Iran. I can't mention any names now as we will sign the contracts in the pre-production period in February.

I have also gained the Œuvre Nationale de Secours Grande-Duchesse Charlotte’s ‘start-up’ fund for developing and writing my first feature film, Abloom.

Is there anything you miss about Iran?

The people and nature…we have this fantastic diversity of nature. In one hour, you can go from skiing to a summer-style beach, and from the desert to the jungle.

And what advice would you have for anyone coming to settle in Luxembourg on how to get the most out of the country?

I’m not sure I’m the best person to offer advice. But the most important thing for me is to align with this Luxembourg characteristic of being present in many places, being active, being open to other people and nationalities. Otherwise it’s difficult to, let’s say, get the happiness of this place.