Ramin Bahrani is part of the Iranian diaspora called second generation. Having lived in America most of his life, his first film Man Push Cart got him major nods on the festival circuit. And the festival buzz is a good buzz. It sustains a filmmaker. It helps that his sophomoric work opus Chop Shop was well received at the Director’s Fortnight in Cannes two years ago, too. Bahrani is off to Venice to present Goodbye Solo, you could say the final chapter of his trilogy about men who surrender themselves to a half-contented life of work and solitude.
Your films are very reminiscent of Kiarostami’s work. Did you get any inspiration from him at all for Goodbye Solo (I’m thinking about one film by him in particular)
In Iranian poetry there is a great tradition called “Tazmin” which is when a poet pays homage to another poet’s poem by copying its rhyme, rhythm, etc- and using that as a starting point to create something new. Like what Kiarostami has done with Sohrab Sepehri for example. You may say I have done this with Taste of Cherry, but you may also say I have done this with Dostoevesky, who is even closer to me… or neither of them. My main inspiration for all my films comes from life and my inner anxieties and hopes. I reference film less and less which each new project.
How was shooting in North Carolina, your early stomping grounds? How close were you to home?
GOODBYE SOLO was made in my hometown of Winston-Salem, where I was born and raised. The city and state could not have been more welcoming and supportive. I spent over six months riding with real cab drivers from Willard taxi stand to learn the cab business and to collect the details and inspirations in anticipation of writing the script with my co-writer Bahareh Azimi. Then, with my small pre-production team, I spent another six months casting, finding locations and preparing for the rest of the crew to arrive for production. The two leads are trained actors from outside of North Carolina (in the case of Red West an established Hollywood character actor who has worked with Altman and Coppola), but the rest of the actors are non-professionals from Winston-Salem.
My film takes place in the same city as Phil Morrison’s wonderful film Junebug. In fact, the screenwriter, Angus MacLachlan, plays a small role in GOODBYE SOLO. Angus told me that nobody will recognize Winston-Salem as the same city in the two films, yet each is equally truthful to the location. He also suggested screening them together at a festival. Good idea. Anyone interested?
Is there a part of you in Solo?
There is a part of me in every character in all my films. There are also my inner hopes and pains.
What’s your definition of mumblecore?
I have only seen Quiet City. It is better not to try and define art.
What do you hope will happen at Toronto and Venice?
I try and have no expectations or hopes for things that exist outside me.