Director Cyrus Neshvad and his latest film THE RED SUITCASE is a heartbreaking story of a 16-year-old Iranian girl who is visibly terrified after picking up her red suitcase at the airport. She is seen to be lost in thought and taking her time to leave the departure lounge. What awaits her on the other side of the automatic doors is even more daunting than we thought. THE RED SUITCASE is nominated for the 95th Academy® Awards after qualifying by winning the Oscar®-qualifying award at the Tirana International Film Festival.
Luxembourg Airport. Late in the evening. A veiled 16-year-old Iranian girl is frightened to take her red suitcase on the automatic carpet. She keeps pushing back the moment to go through the arrival gate and seems more and more terrified.
THE RED SUITCASE TRAILER
Cyrus Neshvad is a Luxembourg director of Iranian origin. He has directed several short films including THE ORCHID, ANTOINE, SON and PORTRAITIST which have all been produced by CYNEFILMS. Collectively these films have officially been selected in over 300 festivals, over 30 of them Oscar-qualifying. PORTRAITIST qualified for the Oscars in 2020 and won 55 awards including the Letzebuerger Filmpraïs 2021 in Luxembourg. We had the honour of speaking to him ahead of this year’s Oscars ceremony…
THE J: Firstly – congratulations on your wonderful film! We were very emotional watching this – and congratulations on the Oscar nomination! How did you find out you had been nominated?
CYRUS NESHVAD: Thanks to The Journalix for the congratulations. Actually, I was watching the announcement live on television with my family in Luxembourg.
THE ACADEMY AWARDS 2023
THE J: Will you be attending the Academy Awards ceremony in person?
CYRUS NESHVAD: Yes, together with Nawelle Evad the lead actress, Guy Daleiden the Luxembourg Filmfund president and the screenwriter Guillaume Levil.
THE J: Have you had the chance to celebrate the success of the film yet?
CYRUS NESHVAD: Yes, and I am so happy that through this short film, I am able to talk about the situation of women in Iran and around the world.
THE STRUGGLES OF IRANIAN WOMEN
THE J: This is such an empowering film, how important is it that more films are made to show the struggles of Iranian women?
CYRUS NESHVAD: It’s very important, especially today. Because in 2019 when I wrote the script nobody was talking about it. I just heard from my mother who was in touch with our family in Iran, that lots of women there were disappearing for saying their opinions or not wearing their headscarves correctly. That terrified me because it was happening, and nobody was talking about it. I wanted to do something. Anything. I decided to make a short movie starring an Iranian girl who decides to stand up for her rights by taking her headscarf off: Her free will to choose.
“HAPPY AND FREE”
THE J: Airports often present a wonderful setting for a film, what made it so key to your piece?
CYRUS NESHVAD: For me, airports are the sign of holidays, good times, and travelling. And I thought it would be original to use this place as her interior prison and the feeling of her loneliness by filming big spaces where she is often all alone surrounded by posters of women from occident whom all seem happy and free.
THE J: How strictly did you follow a script during the making of the film?
CYRUS NESHVAD: I was open to suggestions from my crew, especially the DOP and the actors and what really changed during the shooting were the dialogue parts. The movie was getting more and more silent with fewer and fewer dialogues.
THE RED SUITCASE
THE J: Also, how important was the color of the suitcase in the story?
CYRUS NESHVAD: I wanted that THE RED SUITCASE should be her heart. I chose then everything that should be inside one by one to create very tender content, which would be the heart of this girl. Then I told the actress to keep THE RED SUITCASE against her chest on the exact position of her heart. Finally, I chose red, the colour of the heart.
THE J: The music is a beautiful composition, did you show Kyan Bayani the film before the music was written?
CYRUS NESHVAD: No. In the beginning, I wanted to use no music at all. But after I decided to include very minimalistic music, nearly like a sound design to underline slightly the emotions of this Iranian girl prisoned in these big spaces of the airport.
THE J: How did you discover the star of the film? Do you plan on working together again in the future?
CYRUS NESHVAD: We went to Paris for our casting. There Nawelle Evad had to play the scene where Ariane removes her Hijab to escape. She did it in a way I was not expecting with tears and fear, by looking me deep in the eyes. This convinced me, she is very talented and dedicated to her work. I would definitely work with her again.
THE J: Could this film ever be extended into a full-length feature?
CYRUS NESHVAD: What is the price to pay for your freedom? I think, the movie answered that question. I think the audience was relieved when the bus was finally driving away. And then we see an ad for shampoo hanging there with a girl on it who seems so happy, but is she really that happy?
THE J: What are your plans for the future?
CYRUS NESHVAD: We are finishing the script for my next feature movie. The story of a 6-year-old Iranian boy escaping the revolution of Iran with his mother. They find shelter in a camp in Luxembourg. There the boy befriends himself with an old Russian woman. A friendship grows between these two people who are different in every way and who don’t even speak the same language. But they somehow find a way to connect.
THE J: Good luck again at The Oscars – and enjoy!