Dena Rassam: I Wanted To Show How Young People Are Treated in Iran

Dena Rassam is the daughter of renowned Iranian director/producer Masoud Rassam.

After working as an actress in her youth, Dena is now following in her father’s footsteps by moving behind the camera. Tattoo, the second short film Dena has produced, tells the story of a young women (played by Behdokht Vallian) with a tattoo who comes under undue scrutiny from officials while trying to get her driving license renewed.

Q: I believe the concept for ‘Tattoo’ came from one of your own personal experiences. Can you tell us about that? Why did you feel it would be an interesting event to revisit and examine in a short film?

A: Yes, this story happened to me. But for the film to be more cinematic, Farhad  Delaram (the director) decided to make some changes.

To be honest, I was really shocked on that day because I never thought in my life that I’d be treated like that just for having tattoos! And I decided that this message had to be heard somehow, so I told Farhad whom I have known for a couple of years. I told him the story step-by-step and he wrote it for me.

I wanted to show how young people are treated in Iran. How whatever they do or they want to do is somehow met with obstacles and every door gets closed on them for reasons that are not understandable – at least for me!

So I guess the main reason was to be heard. Actually, last night someone messaged me and thanked me for making the film because he had the same experience. I felt good because it’s not only my message – it is for many more of us. This is a story that has to be heard, and short films are always a great choice for that.

Q: What did you feel director Farhad Delaram could bring to this personal story?

A: Farhad really liked the story and the script he wrote. Since it was his seventh short film, and he had much more experience than me, I thought he would do a great job directing Tattoo. We worked together before so it was not our first collaboration, but Tattoo was a great experience for me and I learned a lot from it, so a big thanks to him.

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Q: And Behdokht Vallian (who plays the lead role)?

A: In my opinion, the main part of the film that makes you watch through to the end is the acting of Ms. Vallian. She was just amazing. I can’t put it in words, but I think it’s pretty obvious in the film that she was perfect and I think the main reason that we made it this far is because of her.

Q: ‘Tattoo’ won the Crystal Bear for Best Short Film at Berlinale. What are your hopes for the film and the conversations it can open up?

A: My hope for the film was to be heard and recognised. The conversations that can be opened up can either be really good or really bad, so I have no idea what will happen. So far everything has gone as we wanted, so I hope it goes well through to the end.

Q: This is your second film. I imagine, at this stage in your career, each project is an interesting learning experience. What did you take away from ‘Tattoo’?

A: I learned a lot from Tattoo, but the main thing is to have a contract with everyone from the day you even want to talk about your film and to make sure everything is written down on that contract. People can change with the blink of an eye so having detailed contracts is a must.


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