Cyrus Neshvad interview: ‘The Red Suitcase’ director
“By getting nominated we can be more visible and put the light on what’s going on in Iran and the women being killed right now,” says director Cyrus Neshvad. His film “The Red Suitcase” has been nominated for Best Live Action Short at the 95th Academy Awards. Watch our exclusive video interview above.
The movie takes place at the Luxembourg airport, where a veiled 16-year old Iranian girl (Nawelle Ewad) is frightened to take her red suitcase from the baggage claim conveyor belt. She keeps pushing back the moment to go through the arrival gate and seems more and more terrified with each passing minute.
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“My family is Iranian,” Neshvad explains. “I have lots of members of my family still living in Iran. My parents have kept the connection to Iran and what’s going on. Two years ago they were telling my mother that a lot of women were disappearing as soon as the hijab was not [worn properly] or when you say something which is against the regime. Women are disappearing and will never appear back. That was terrifying news for me. I really needed to talk about this and I didn’t want [to do] a documentary, so I did a live action short.”
It was the director’s intent to make viewers pass judgment on the young girl at the beginning of the film. “It was a condition for me,” he reveals. “I have been through this — getting arrested for no reason. One time in Paris I got resisted in my car because they thought I stole it, with no reason. I grew up with this. In the first five minutes, for me, it was very important that we still don’t know what’s going on. The audiences is already judging. She has a hijab, she’s standing there, there’s luggage, so ‘there’s a bomb, be careful.'”
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An instrumental scene in the film involves the girl removing her hijab, an offense that has gotten women killed in Iran. “When you take it off, it has a very strong message,” Neshvad says. “You are not accepting [the regime]. That’s very heavy.” The director’s film encourages women’s liberation, which he explains would get him killed in his home country. Now a citizen of Luxembourg, he says, “If I would be in Iran, exposed like this by the Oscars, I would already be dead. The country is like a body and this regime, since 1979, is like a virus in it. We are fighting this virus and it makes the country, the regime, very angry.”
Neshvad says his earliest inspirations were American filmmakers Alfred Hitchcock and Steven Spielberg (nominated this year for “The Fabelmans”). When asked how he would react if he were to meet Spielberg at the March 12 ceremony, Neshvad responds, “I will try not cry.”