Mahaya Petrosian: Iranian actress takes a turn behind the camera
Known for a wide range of roles in 23 films, she is directing her first short film, 'A Beautiful Snowy Day.'
The Iranian movie actress can't contain her excitement about her latest project: a short film that is all her own.Skip to next paragraph
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"It was all on my shoulders," says the Iranian star, recalling the challenges and rush of creating "A Beautiful Snowy Day."
"I was everything: writer, director, producer, actress," enthuses Mahaya Petrosian, sitting in a coffee shop in Tehran, sunglasses with a few faux-diamond sparkles resting on the top of her head and a stylish black leather coat-manteau. "I was so tired, I became old doing this film!"
Miss Petrosian is best known in Iran for her wide range of roles in 23 movies, two TV serials, and a host of short films and stage productions. First profiled in this newspaper in 1998 as Iran's rising star, she has since been married and widowed, and now is finding new joy in her first bid as director.
She was exhilarated by 20 days of filming in a village in the snowy Alborz mountains north of Tehran earlier this year. "It is a film of a woman and her little boy, and one day of their life. It is a day of great decision," says Petrosian of the 30-minute-long project, which she is still editing.
What happens? "No, I don't tell you!" she says, feigning objection though clearly eager to share the movie's secrets.
The film includes just two actresses and two actors, as well as a 3-1/2-year-old boy she selected at a preschool. But this is not the easiest business to be in these days, even if you can call on 20 years of experience, big acting talent, and dark eyes and soft looks that have captivated audiences, even from beneath the mandatory head covering.
Petrosian's image often peers out from billboards advertising films and posters at DVD shops. But just as politics in Iran has changed dramatically in the past decade, so has life for movies and their makers, which is famous for silver screen genius.
Iranian cinema continues to impress: The film "About Elly" went from victory at Iran's Fajr Film festival in early February to win "Best Director" for Asghar Farhadi at Germany's Berlinale Film Festival days later.
The star of that film, Golshifteh Farahani, drew authorities' ire – and was prevented last year from leaving the country for a time – after appearing in the Hollywood movie "Body of Lies," which starred Leonardo DiCaprio.
Comedy is safer for directors
Lack of cash, and tighter restrictions under the conservative government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, have meant that directors are becoming more commercial, veering toward comedies to guarantee script approval and public showings.
For purists like Petrosian, who won "Best Supporting Actress" at the Fajr festival in 2000, that complicates the creative process. "It's not a healthy economy for moviemaking right now, because there are not enough cinemas – it's like a wheel not turning," she says. She recently had three films completed, but none were yet showing publicly.