Director Farhad Pakdel joins us on Close-Up Culture to discuss his short film, Everything Will Be Alright, which is screening at SXSW 2022.
Can you tell us about the story of Everything Will Be All Right and your inspiration for it?
Everything Will Be All Right follows Leila, a young drama teacher in Montreal, who has been keeping a secret from her family back in the Middle East. In the early days of the pandemic, she receives a phone call from home that shatters her normal world. Her father has fallen ill and she has to decide how to meet the urgency of that call as she has other important plans in the coming days.
The story was conceived in the exact time it takes place: March 2020. I was influenced and affected by what the world was going through and this film was my response to it. I have many friends who are first-generation immigrants and it means that they have strong ties to families in their home country. I saw how the pandemic, especially in the first two or three months, put them in stressful situations. Some of them lost their loved ones in another corner of the world but could not travel to be with their family members because of travel restrictions, etc.
At the same time, Everything Will All Right is a pandemic story without being exclusively a pandemic story. My intention was to tell a story that could happen in any similar situation. The pandemic is a catalyst that triggers the complications and dilemma in the story.
What did you want to explore through the character of Leila and her dilemma?
Everything Will Be All Right is a character drama about a person who wakes up one morning and finds herself thrown into a complicated situation that demands her to act promptly. The question that I explored is “what we would do when our normal world turns upside down by factors out of our control.” At those moments, we have to make decisions that will define how strong we are and who we are as a moral person.
What was your experience making this film during the pandemic?
There were many challenges that we had to handle. For example, the initial story ended at the airport on an open-ending climax, making us wonder whether Leila will board the plane or not. But at the time, because of COVID restrictions, it was not possible to shoot at the airport, so I had to change the ending without compromising the conclusion and the effect that I wanted. So, the airport was replaced with the taxi scene, and frankly, I even like this ending better. I remember we were in the car shooting that scene and I was looking at Abdelghafour, who plays the driver, in the rear mirror and thought I needed a line of dialogue hence “Spring is unpredictable” was added on the spot. I love that moment and think it encapsulates a lot in my story.
Overall, it was rewarding to shoot during COVID’s third wave in Montreal while closely following sanitary guidelines and finding creative ways to meet the challenges caused by the restrictions.
How was your collaboration with Nahéma Ricci and this talented crew?
Nahéma was the first actress that I contacted and I am happy that she could relate to the character and accepted the role. I knew she was the perfect candidate for the role of Leila because I had seen her performance in Antigone, and Like Antigone, I was looking at an interpretation of the tragic hero in my film. There is even a self-referential scene in Everything Will Be All Right in which Leila talks about Orpheus and his flaw and empathizes with him. Nahéma and I talked about the role and realized that we had a common take on the character and story world. She knows well when to conceal emotions and when and to what extent express them in her performance, which was very essential for the film as I was avoiding heightened emotions and melodrama.
As for the cinematography, I had a very specific aesthetics in mind that I discussed with Alexandre, our DP, and very soon, we shared the same vision of the visuals. Most of the scenes are shot in close-ups and it demanded a particular sensitivity to details hence different cinematography approach that Alex handled excellently.
The collaboration with all the cast and crew was the same. Both established and emerging artists that we collaborated with on this project were very professional and their creativity and dedication made the realization of Everything Will Be All Right possible.
What do you hope audiences take away from the film at SXSW?
I hope the audiences can relate to Leila and to her situation and experience what she is going through. There are many moments of silence in my films as I am interested in telling stories not only through what is seen and said but what is unseen and unsaid. So, I hope that the audiences meet the film’s call to reflect on what is unseen, unsaid and implied as opposed to only what is explicitly presented.