“An Iranian filmmaker must be persistent”

The perception of Iranian cinema in the West is fragmented. Some great masters, like the late Abbas Kiarostami, rightly occupy a place so considerable that it complicates the discovery. So it’s not every day that a young filmmaker can step out of the shadows. This is now the case of Saeed Roustayi, who signs, with Tehran Law, his second feature film, presented at the last Venice Film Festival. The genre of the film is another astonishment. Social thriller against the backdrop of a society ravaged on its margins by the consumption of crack cocaine, Tehran Law is an uncompromising film, which holds up a cruel mirror to Iranian power.

Your film could be defined as a social thriller. Was this your original idea?

Not quite. Let’s say that the social question prevailed in my mind. And that I got to the thriller as a result, quite simply because the problem I am raising affects circles – the poor, the Mafiosi, the police, the justice system – which are involved in the genre.

The film is obviously very well documented. Was it easy for you to obtain the collaboration of the State services?

No. The preparation of this film was long and complex. It took a lot of patience, stubbornness, and, I must admit, sometimes cunning. But in the end we were able to observe police stations, talk with police officers, we also visited prisons, courts, and until this sinister place where capital executions are carried out since drug trafficking in Iran exposes to this sanction.

Samad Majidi (Payman Maadi) is head of a unit in the Tehran Narcotics Squad.

The execution scene, by hanging, is anthological. It makes one think, by its power, of that of Army of Shadows, by Jean-Pierre Melville. How did you design it?

I know the movie, sure, but you know, the real has been our only guide in the matter. When I learned that the executions were collective, I took a closer look at this real killing machine, which I wanted to recreate in all its horror.

When did this explosion in drug use in Iran that your film evoke, and how do you explain it?

It is first and foremost a geographic problem. Afghanistan is the world’s largest producer of drugs and we have a common border. What changed the situation are these chemical drugs that have exploded production for twenty years, and therefore consumption, exponentially. Never before had we seen drug addicts living in the streets in Tehran or in other big cities, not only in the ghettos but in absolutely every neighborhood.

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