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AD: Interview with director Mani Nickpour

By June 16th, 2023No Comments
Mani Nickpour Algemeen Dagblad interview

Interview with director Mani Nickpour in Dutch daily Algemeen Dagblad about the realization of his dream: the making of his debut feature film Ahriman: Death before Dying

How big this filmmaker thinks is demonstrated by his Keanu Reeves anecdote: “I had an idea for a film in which the lead actor hardly appeared on screen and wore a mask. He would take it off in the last scene and then the audience would see Keanu Reeves. Then I only had to hire him for one day. So I called his manager and asked him to show Keanu the mail with the storyboards. ‘His minimum wage starts at 5 million,’ the manager replied. But I begged, ‘Explain it to him.’”

“A few days later I was sitting with my father in the evening. We were pretty tipsy when the phone rang, an anonymous number: ‘Hi, this is Keanu Reeves.’ I thought a friend was playing a joke. But when he mentioned the name of his manager, I started to stammer terribly. He said he thought it was interesting. ‘Can I call you back tomorrow?’ I asked, wanting to speak to him sober. ‘All right,’ Keanu said and hung up. And I realized I didn’t have his number at all.”

The next day I called his manager, who was furious because I asked for the phone number of a star. Keanu, of course, thought: ‘Stupid guy, why doesn’t he call back? Well, nevermind.’ My stupidest mistake ever,” Mani concludes, laughing.

The Sean Connery of Iran

Mani often laughs. But he takes his film, five years in the making, very seriously. Currently, he is offering ‘Ahriman: Death Before Dying‘, the first part of a two-part series, at international film festivals.

His love for film was instilled in him at an early age. “My father Saeid Nickpour is an actor: the Sean Connery of Iran. Because he often took me to the set and I once played a role as a child, I knew I wanted to make films. I enjoyed the atmosphere on the set, it was like one big playground.”

But if I said that at school in Iran, I was beaten by the teachers. Four years after the revolution, all people with brains had fled, and the wives of martyrs stood in front of the class. Fortunately, my mother took me and my brother to Holland, for a ‘holiday’, she said. My father said: ‘I’ll come after you, but he only came three years later. I was seven. I remember how I took off my mother’s headscarf at Schiphol airport and said: ‘You don’t have to do that anymore.’ She never wore it again.”

From dishwasher to director

Mani enjoyed life in the Netherlands: “Everything was better than in Iran.”
However, his dream of becoming a filmmaker went on the back burner, as he didn’t think it was financially feasible. So he went to graphic school. Once he worked in a printing office, he knew for sure that this was not for him.

“I decided to go to a private film school. That cost 27.000 euros. I worked as a dishwasher at Schiphol Airport, in a souvenir shop and later I cleaned the toilets at the Tuschinski cinema to pay for school and the rent.”

When he told a colleague and friend about the idea for his television series, he initially had a music video in mind for the story, in which his father would play a role. But the friend said: “Shame! Give the story and your father space, make it into a film.” And so it happened.

“It has become a sci-fi thriller about an ex-soldier with mental problems who ends up with a mystical doctor who treats his patients with a Dream-Machine. It’s not based on my life, although there is a part of yourself in every project.”

Love in every detail

In the meantime, he has spent approximately 75.000 euros on it. “I don’t economize on this project, turned to Greece and France. I don’t buy anything for myself; I don’t go on holiday or go away for the weekend. That is what I am prepared to do. When you make something, you have to put love into every detail if you want to impress.”

Mani knocked on the doors of film funds several times: They only wanted to give me money if I worked with people they know. But I want to choose for myself. So I work for a few months and then run again to earn money.”

Besides money, it has cost Mani some relationships. “People my age want children but that is unwise. My attention is not there now and a child is not a simple houseplant.”

He is currently offering the film in the Netherlands, but Mani also wants to take it to Germany and East Asia. “The story is full of symbolism and they appreciate that.” What does he want when he accomplishes that? “Invest in a new film project. But first I want to sit on a mountain for a year and stare at a landscape. My head, after all that time in front of a computer display, needs to be reset.”

Trailer Ahriman Death Before Dying


Source: Algemeen Dagblad


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