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In einem entlegen Dorf entkommt eine junge Frau der
Hinrichtung, weil behauptet wird, eine hingerichtete
Jungfrau komme in den Himmel, während ein Krimineller
doch zur Hölle fahren müsse. Hadschi, der
religiöse Führer des Dorfes, drängt auf
die Vollstreckung des Urteils und verheiratet die Verurteilte
mit dem Henker. Bräutigam und Braut stehen sich
als Henker, Gefangene und späteres Opfer gegenüber.
Thema von Babak Payamis drittem und bestem Spielfilm
ist weder die Religion noch die gesellschaftliche Rückständigkeit.
Vielmehr geht es um den Missbrauch von Religion zur
Knechtung der Menschen. Payami geht das Thema, das in
allen Religionen und Gesellschaften brisant ist, mit
bewundernswerter Ruhe an. Die Handlung und vor allem
die Visualisierung, basierend auf dem Spannungsbogen
zwischen dem, was im Bild zu sehen ist, und dem, was
ausserhalb des Bildes geschieht und nur über den
Ton wahrgenommen werden kann, entwerfen einen subtilen
und scharfsinnigen Diskurs.
Kurz vor der Fertigstellung des Films beschlagnahmten
die iranischen Behörden das Originalmaterial des
Films. Dennoch läuft der Film in Augsburg.
Robert Richter © 2003
Anmerkungen des Filmautors
Die Stille zwischen zwei Gedanken im Titel meines Films
bezieht sich auf den Moment, in dem ein Individuum oder
eine ganze Gesellschaft aus dem Albtraum einer blindlings
eingegangenen Überzeugung erwacht. Es ist eine
Reise voll Zweifel und Unentschiedenheit. Der Film erzählt
die Geschichte eines Mannes, der das Opfer seiner blinden
Überzeugung ist. Er ist dem fundamentalistischen
Ich glaube, der Film endet mit einem Neubeginn. Aber
grundsätzlich ist es der Anfang eines Endes. Das
Ende einer Ära der Enttäuschung, der Verwirrung
und des Zweifels. Diese Ära liess aber auch den
Hass auf Unterdrückung und den Beginn eines Bewusstseins
Ich versuche zu zeigen, dass zwei und zwei manchmal
fünf ergibt! Strukturell ist Film für mich
weniger fiktional/narrativ als musikalisch/lyrisch.
Wenn ich eine Einstellung kadriere, Dialog oder Handlung
einbaue, achte ich immer sehr darauf, was ausserhalb
des Bildfensters ist - was nicht gesagt wird und was
nicht umgesetzt werden kann. Vermutlich beeinflusst
mich die Umgebung, in der ich meine drei Filme gemacht
habe, aber das ist nicht zwingend der einzige Einfluss.
Es ist auch eine Wesensart der „östlichen“
Kultur. Die Kommunikation zwischen den Menschen ist
von viel Indirektem und vielen Verschlüsselungen
Ich weiss noch immer nicht, weshalb sie das Filmmaterial
beschlagnahmt haben oder ob ich das Negativ jemals zurückerhalten
werde. Einer der Hauptkritikpunkte, die iranische Meinungsmacher
gegen Filme wie meinen vorbringen, besagt, dass solche
Filme dem Ruf von Iranern oder Muslimen schaden. Das
könnte unwahrer nicht sein. Ich glaube, wir Filmemacher
gehen von unserem eigenen Umfeld aus, um menschliche
Themen allgemein aufzugreifen. Wir sind weder Journalisten
noch Reporter, so wenig wie wir Politiker oder Ideologen
Babak Payami, Spätsommer 2003
(vollständiger Text siehe englische Originalfassung)
Geboren 1966 in Teheran. In den frühen Neunzigerjahren
studiert er Film an der University of Toronto. Nach
fast 20 Jahren in Kanada kehrt er in den Iran zurück
und dreht dort drei Spielfilme: „Ein Tag mehr“
(Jek rus-e bischtar, 1999, ausgezeichnet an den Filmfestivals
von Tokio oder Turin), „Geheime Wahl / Secret
Ballot“ (Rai-je machfi, 2001, Goldener Löwe
am Filmfestival Venedig, weitere Preise an den Festivals
von Rotterdam oder São Paulo) und „Stille
zwischen zwei Gedanken“ (Sokut-e bejn-e do fekr,
2003). Nach der Beschlagnahmung des Originalmaterials
von „Stille zwischen zwei Gedanken“ verlässt
Babak Payami Iran.
In a remote village, a young woman is spared from execution
based on a claim that “criminals must go to hell,
but an executed virgin will go to heaven.” Urging
on the completion of the task, a local spiritual leader
weds the virgin to her eventual executioner. The Executioner
must face the woman as his bride, prisoner and future
The Executioner finds himself in a whirlpool of doubt.
He has always been a true believer in leader Haji and
his cause. Now he finds it difficult to understand the
Haji's sudden altering of the law.
The Executioner's eyes are soon opened to the power
struggle between the Haji and the Moazen, the man who
recites the call for daily prayers. The consequences
of disobeying the ruthless Haji become all too clear.
The Haji and his circle of followers will stop at nothing
to hold their control of the poverty and drought-stricken
Despite the Haji’s disapproval, wise old Auntie
insists the Virgin accompany the other village women
for the traditional pilgrimage into the mountains. The
Executioner turns desperately to the past for answers
as the threat of violence increases...
Source: Press book
“Silence Between Two Thoughts” is Babak
Payami's follow-up to his internationally successful
“Secret Ballot”. 2001's “Secret Ballot”
won Payami a Silver Lion for Best Director at the Venice
Film Festival. Payami had previously received critical
acclaim for his first feature, “One More Day”,
presented at the 2000 Berlin Film Festival (Panorama).
“One More Day” received the Special Jury
Prize in Turin and the Best Artistic Contribution Award
in Tokyo. Born in Tehran in 1966, Payami studied cinema
at the University of Toronto during the early 90's.
In 1998, he returned to Iran, after an almost two decade-long
absence, to produce and direct his debut “One
Feature films: “One More Day” (1999), “Secret
Ballot” (2001), “Silence Between Two Thoughts”
Source: Press book
Comments by the film director
Silence Between Two Thoughts
The "silence between two thoughts" referred
to in my film's title is the moment when an individual
or even a whole society wakes up from the nightmare
of blind conviction. It's a journey of doubt and indecision.
The film tells the story of a man who is the victim
of his blind convictions. He's the subject of fundamentalist
dogmatism. An executioner in a remote village, he is
forced to marry a young woman so that she will no longer
be a virgin. In this way, he is then expected to execute
his own bride after consumating their marriage. Once
confronted with his victim, the executioner finds himself
in a whirlpool of doubt.
The film isn't about religion. Instead, “Silence
Between Two Thoughts” addresses the dilemma of
people whose religious beliefs are exploited in order
to rule them. Religion is the backdrop for everything
in life in the region where I shot the film. It's impossible
to make a film about that region without addressing
religion. Especially when it is misused to deceive people.
So the film offers a humanistic view of a violent and
tragic situation. The principal issue in the film as
it pertains to religion is how it can be misrepresented
and misused. This happened similarly during the Middle
Ages; we saw it during the Taliban, we even saw it in
Waco, Texas. It’s as old as humanity itself. Satan
was at work even in the Garden of Eden.
The Beginning of an End
I think the film ends with a beginning. But it's basically
the beginning of an end. The end of an era of deception,
confusion and doubt. This era led was also responsible
for creating a hate of oppression and the start of awareness.
Unfortunately, it seems bitterly true that enlightenment
historically arrives only after great human suffering.
As we’ve seen over and over again in history,
there is a great price to pay for blind conviction.
For example, the people of Afghanistan and Iraq, who
were victimized by oppressive regimes for decades. Despite
the fact that they were oppressed, they ended up being
victimized because of their religious conviction. They
failed to stand up against the misrepresentation of
religion and as a result, even allowed the true virtues
of their religion to be tarnished. I think this is very
precisely represented in the film.
The Oppression of Women
The women’s issue is a core element in my film.
I wanted to get to the heart of that issue. What is
used as an excuse to save the virgin convict's life
is characteristic of the most despicable aspect of how
women are treated in an oppressed society. I was deliberately
vague in regards to the crime she is accused of. In
oppressive societies, it often seems that being a woman
is a crime. A great majority of the atrocities carried
out by theocratic dictatorships throughout history had
actually nothing to do with actual religious belief,
but more with sexist dogma. None of the world's major
religions have been immune from this.
Except for the lead actress, all the other players are
local people from eastern Iran near the border of Afghanistan.
Maryam Moghaddam is one of the finest young talents
in Iran. She was very selfless and dedicated to this
film. What was important is that she doesn’t stand
out, but blends in. The executioner is played by a wonderful
young man who happens to be a Kung Fu master with a
great following in the surrounding area. If it wasn’t
for the kindness and help of the local people, this
film would never have been made. Despite the extreme
circumstances and harsh environment suffered by that
region, the people remain among the kindest and most
generous I have ever encountered in all my travels.
My experiences from living in Afghanistan for almost
8 years made me especially attached to the people of
Pakistan's Sistan/Baluchistan provinces, who have similar
cultures. The locals gave me a lot of advice and I followed
it. It didn’t feel like the normal way of filmmaking
where the director dictates the work. I was exploring,
learning and discovering throughout the entire process.
Three Miles from Afghanistan
I didn’t originally intend to venture that far
geographically into Iran, but I had a clear idea from
the start about what look and feel I wanted for the
film. The social and human texture of the film was particularly
important for me. Ultimately, after months of traveling
and research, I found the right spot -- three miles
from the border of Afghanistan! The area we shot in
is very closed with strict social rules. I was adamant
on maintaining a respectful relationship with the locals
and didn’t want to disrupt their lives. Very difficult
lives that they have managed to forge despite the severe
conditions. I needed many women for the film. Just to
approach and speak with women in that region is considered
a major offence. It took months of living in that area
and blending in with the local population to develop
the trust. Interestingly enough it was much easier for
me than anyone else in the main crew since I lived in
these regions for most of my early childhood years.
I spoke with several professional set designers in Iran,
but because I didn’t have a script in the traditional
sense, I couldn’t simply instruct someone to build
from a model. I also needed someone to live through
the shoot with us and not just build a set and go home.
So I hired a local master builder who knew the ancient
building methods and we built our way through the film.
We used construction methods that were used 2000 years
ago. We built and modified sets until the last day of
shooting. Some of it had to do with shooting technicalities
and some of it had to do with the esthetics that I wanted.
I try to show that sometimes two plus two is five! For
me, film is less fictional/narrative than musical/lyrical
in structure. When I frame a shot, incorporate dialogue
or integrate action, I am always conscious of what is
outside the frame -- what is not said and what can’t
be done. This is probably an influence of the surroundings
in which I made my three films, but not necessarily
the only influence. It is also a characteristic of the
“eastern” culture. There is a great deal
of indirectness and encryption in people’s communication.
Ambiguity among the roles of the film's village leaders
is part of my argument. It is one of the reasons why
people are victimized by opportunists. Another example
is the leading character wanting to see proof of the
existence of certain laws. Not only do I have to observe
and convey this ambiguity in the film, but I also find
myself having to use the same method of cryptic communication
in order to be able to make the films and get through
the so-called obstacles.
Confiscation of the Negatives
The negatives of my film have been confiscated by the
authorities in Iran. It has taken a lot of effort and
anxiety to prepare a special version of my film to be
shown at the Venice and Toronto festivals. As of September
2003, I still don't know why they were confiscated or
whether or not I'll ever be able to get the negatives
back ... One of the major criticisms by certain Iranian
mindsets usually pointed at a film like mine is that
such films are tarnishing the reputation of Iranians
or Muslims. This couldn't be farther from the truth.
I think we filmmakers merely draw from our own surroundings
to tackle human issues on a much broader level. We are
not journalists or reporters, just as much as we are
not politicians or ideologues.
Babak Payami, late summer 2003
Statement of the film director
at the programme press conference of the Venice Film
Thank you for your time this afternoon.
Unfortunately, I am not here to celebrate the selection
of my new film in the Venice Film festival this year.
The repression and intimidation of the media and arts
community in Iran is not new to any of us and most regrettably,
the case of Ms. Zahra Kazemi, the Iranian/Canadian photojournalist
is not an isolated incident.
As you might have been aware, a few weeks ago, while
I was putting the final touches on my new film, I was
arrested by plain clothed officials on the Tehran streets
and eventually, the material for my film was confiscated
from my offices with no formal and legal justification.
During the several hours of informal interrogation,
various threats and accusations were being made against
me. I naturally turned to the Iranian filmmakers’
union and the ministry of culture for support. However,
as we speak today, several weeks after this incident,
my material is being held and I am yet to receive any
formal clarification of the case.
Since then, government officials have subjected other
Iranian filmmakers to harassment by way of informal
interrogations and persecution. The independent film
community in Iran faces one of the darkest times in
recent history. Through such actions, not only the work
of existing and established filmmakers is jeopardized,
but also the coming to fruition of new talent is facing
a violent abortion.
It is most unfortunate that independent minded artists
are being dragged into politics as an excuse for their
persecution and repression. However, this is not limited
to the arts community. Anybody who demands their most
basic human rights and their freedom of expression are
being politicized as a means to classify them as the
“enemy” and to persecute and ultimately,
eliminate their hunger for freedom and their desire
for an “apolitical” life. The enemy, isn’t
this a familiar word in recent months? I am disheartened
by the fact that even on what seems to be the other
end of the international spectrum, this most undemocratic
of mentalities, that of “you’re either with
us or against us” is being legitimized and somehow
tolerated by the general population. Especially in recent
years, it is ever more clear that we do not have a political
model for freedom and respect for human rights. This,
in principal, is the primary reason for our refraining
from politics. This is also why we, as independent artists,
irrespective of our nationality, are pleading to the
people of the world through our work, to abandon politics
and politicians, especially those who only exist based
on the notion of the enemy, to turn to a humanistic
way of life.
As a result, the participation of my film, even if I
can manage to salvage two frames of my film in time
for the scheduled screening at Venice, is for me and
for the independent film community around the world,
a matter of human and artistic principal. It is a plea
to all who hold humanity ahead of ideology, race, nationality
and any other artificially imposed abhor ration upon
human civilization, to react to such oppression wherever
it happens in defense of our most basic rights as human
beings. The right to think and to express ourselves
freely while we respect the rights of others to do the
Babak Payami, 31st July 2003