February 15, 2021


INTENSE, by Shirin Shabour is Venice Intercultural Film Festival 2020 (VIFF) Winner
Nader`s house is to be demolished soon and his daughter is sick.
Nader calls Najmeh(his sister) and asks her for help. Najmeh comes to his house,
but Nader has left there before her arrival.

Please, tell me something about yourself and your background. How did you start to be part of the film industry? 

I began studying cinema in high school then I graduated from the University of Dramatic Art and after that, I also did filmmaking school. I did several short films in collaboration with other filmmakers and this is the first film that I did it on my own and it is my self-production.

Who were inspiring filmmakers for you? 

Asghar Farhady, Abbas Kiarostami, Michael Haneke and Alejandro González Iñárritu.

How did you conceive the film? Where does it come from? 

I always have in my mind the people with problems who are not self- sufficient and need help. 
Like, kids with Down syndrome. We always think they are different, that doesn’t mean they don’t become teenagers and don’t have the issues like others. We forget that they have the same steps. Lots of them become mothers, most of the time their children are healthy.
We say to 15 year olds with Down syndrome “stay here and play”, we put them sometimes near people with other issues which can damage them a lot. They can’t defend themselves and are not able to explain to their parents if they face any problem.

Is the described situation rare or fairly common? 

It is common. Most of the time the families push a non-self-sufficient person into marriage because they believe this can be helpful. Unfortunately, as a result, the problem becomes larger and who is in charge of taking care of a non-self-sufficient person ends up taking care of an entire family.

How do social services and support for families with disabled children work?

There is only one service to support the people with Down syndromes. They do not have the capacity to support all the families with this problem.  Lots of the treatments are in Tehran, and it is expensive to support disability. There are so many people living in other cities who are struggling.
However, they can’t be cured completely, but they can become better physically or in their speech.
I talked with so many families, and they have said there is not enough public support, and they have to take care of themselves using private services.
There are specific schools as well, but so many families don’t send their children with Down syndrome to these specific schools, because they believe that it is not helpful.
In my film, the aunt says that she doesn’t want to send the niece to “Behsizty” special house/school for children with Down syndrome. Because the families perceive it as abandonment, and it doesn’t make the family looks good. 

In the film, difficult decisions – requiring a direct assumption of responsibility – are made exclusively by women. How is the division of emotional and practical burdens within families in Iran today?

There is a non-written law that all emotional problems are on women’s shoulders. 
Lots of women who were working had to stop when the family got to decide who goes to work and who should stay home and take care of a family member. 
Even if nobody talks about this, society expects the woman to take care of family members with issues. Many sisters had to handle their brothers’ and family problems. 
In my film I am showing this, the sister has her life and still has to come and carry her brother’s problem and even when she decides to leave, she has to come back. You see in the last sequence the shadow of the sister.

Could the situation of the film happen anywhere in the world or are there Iranian elements?

I believe that this can happen anywhere, fathers that can’t handle the responsibility of their kids, kids with the mental issue who can have problems and have bad events happen to them which change their future or have a bad effect on them. But I think in any other part of the world everyone has their life. The fact that if the parents are not there, sisters become responsible, I think this is an Iranian family expectation.

Thank you, Shirin, for sharing your time with us.
Negin Vaziri