Mohammad Shirvani about Fat Shaker: 'Allegedly, my film is perverse'

A fat man moves around a small apartment, his back covered with the glass cups used in cupping therapy. A turkey gobbles and a deaf-mute boy washes up. Just a random scene from filmmaker and artist Mohammad Shirvani's feature film which balances between dream and reality. Nominated for a Hivos Tiger Award.

In a nutshell

'It sets you in motion.'

First time

'In recent years, I've had it with the naturalistic manner of filming in Iran. My distaste turned to hate and I turned that into a film. It was hard to let go of the traditional way of filming. I really wanted to put more surrealism and absurdism in my film – like in a dream. You don't see that in Iranian cinema. I want to use my work to get things moving again i.e. primarily the new generation of filmmakers. I also try to do so using workshops and conversations with film students. Fat Shaker is not a consumer film; it's one for filmmakers. I hope it encourages other makers to produce films that stimulate me to make films.' 


'Actually, I don't think anything about filmmaking is hard. Naturally I could moan about the lack of budget, but everyone faces that problem. The only thing that I find tough is the period after the film has been completed. It's like after orgasming. What I'd like to change is the period between the final version of the script and when shooting starts. I am still trying to find a way to shorten that period.'


'Casting the lead was pretty difficult. I was looking for a fat man, but I just couldn't find one in Iran. I became so desperate that I considered re-writing the script for a thin man. That was the day before I bumped into Levon Haftvan in Toronto. He was perfect and he had theatre experience. It was a demanding role which Levon pulled off without breaking sweat. He really understood what I wanted and why. His personality was also a major influence on the role. After he played in my film, he was asked to be in another Iranian film, Parviz, which will also be screened at IFFR.'


'I recently received some slightly bad news. I heard that my film had been removed from the selection for the Tehran film festival which is the largest in the country by the censors. A fundamentalist website has posted all sorts of bad things about it too: that it was made underground, that it is against the Iranian people, that it's perverse. I expect things to be quite difficult for me when I return to Iran.'


'I have a good feeling about this festival. I attended in 2004 and 2005. I really hope Fat Shaker finds a distributor, that it reaches a larger audience. Many films never leave the festival circuit.'

Bright Future

'I now want to make film which, from the opening credits on, gives the viewer the idea that they're part of it. The story is about an English teacher and his psychologist. All sorts of things happen, but at the end these events prove to have perhaps only taken place in the psychologist's office. I'm already working on the script – I had to let go of Fat Shaker before I could start on it.'

Fat Shaker – Mohammad Shirvani
Fri 1 13:00 Pathé 4
Sat 2 12:15 Pathé 6

This is an article from the Daily Tiger dated Wednesday 30 January 2013.
Photo: Bram Belloni
Text: Nicole Santé