Film director Yasmine Bahechar came to Leeds to present her short film Oldschool, screened as part of In Short, Europe, an annual European short film festival. We asked her a few questions. Don't miss the London edition of In Short, Europe on 12 and 13 May at Cinélumière, Institut Français UK.
A friendship group is broken after one of them announces she is moving away. Over their last few days together, the girls realise that their whole lives are changing. Yasmine Bahechar’s graduation film is a stirring reminder that friendships aren’t always forever.
How did reality and fiction meet in OLDSCHOOL? What were the opportunities and challenges you encountered while filming?
Actually, several spatial and temporal dimensions meet and merge. I’d say that most of the film is based on memories of childhood, adolescence, young adulthood and present experiences in my life that are about to become memories of the past. Stories that have been digested, are still being digested or will be digested in the future. The real challenge was to have memories played out by people I met a few months before the shooting, with whom I was bonding while telling myself that surely our paths will naturally separate to become memories as well.
In fact, it's impossible to separate reality from fiction because my reality is essentially composed of imagination, dreams, promise and hope. I think reality is a mixture of many crazy things!
I had the opportunity to believe in a dream and to make it attainable by overcoming several challenges. I met several people with different skills during the shoot. I made the crazy choice, perhaps for fear of rejection, not to work with a production company at first, to give myself the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them, at a cost, but with no regrets. I imagined I was in a school and should take advantage of the fact that I was already being supervised from a distance, and allow myself to listen to myself, stumble and catch up as best as I could. This choice was not easy because I was afraid of making the wrong choice. Another challenge was to rely on friends and talents that I could sense from a distance without knowing if they would see it through to the end. Another challenge was to accept the end of a long-standing friendship during the shoot, to take a bullet without a bullet proof vest and to quickly get things in perspective.
I also let life take us by surprise by avoiding organizing everything down to the last millimetre, because I like the unexpected and thinking on my feet.
You made this short film during your studies at HEAD-Geneva. Can you tell us how your training and experiences in Geneva influenced this work?
I was inspired to make this film by good childhood memories, but also by experiences I had during my studies before HEAD-Geneva. In primary school I was surrounded by people from the same background, with more or less the same financial circumstances as me. I grew up with people from very different backgrounds and I learned a lot from their culture. Then after this school, I spent time with these same people and others from other working class areas of Geneva. I'm not saying that we were all alike but we had a lot in common. Until then, even though my teenage years were tough, I felt like I understood my environment. After that school, different avenues opened up and the environment I was learning to understand became fragmented. I moved to a school that, in my opinion, was "changing". To cut a long story short, the clash of social classes was obvious. I heard some pretty harsh comments there such as: "If your parents didn't get good university degrees you’re not likely to do well here, it would be better to change direction". These elitist remarks made me realize that I had landed there in order to understand that the mix between social classes was a problem. And then the more you grow up, the more you gain perspective and the more you realize that this mix takes on another meaning. There the richness of social and cultural mixing lost its value. The power of money, name, privilege, elitism and social rank predominated.
With this short film of 19 minutes I wanted to show who we are, how we speak, how we dress, how we bargain, how we manage to earn a living, how we spend our time, how we imagine the future, what kind of music speaks to us, who inspires us, what kind of reaction we have when faced with injustice: incomprehension and anger, sometimes.
OLDSCHOOL was first released in 2020. How do you look back on this film and its history today?
Yes, the film was released in 2020 and I can tell you that this film still follows me and guides me as I write these words. It has allowed me to exorcise thoughts, reflections, unanswered questions, emotions of all kinds. I was able to speak in a language that is natural to me, an artistic language that I am still learning. Everything that I could not express with words came out in this way. I understand myself better than I did yesterday and that makes me feel good.
When I look at it again today, I feel like a 16-year-old girl who wants to see everything through rose-tinted glasses and to hold on to beautiful moments, even the embarrassing ones. Sometimes when I listen to that voiceover again I think, "What? I really dared to say that out loud?" Sometimes I get mad at myself for sticking with that "soppy" touch and sometimes I think that actually that's just how I roll; when I'm going through difficult times I can only talk about them when I've properly digested them and when I am able to tell the story with a smile that replaces the tears that have flowed.
This film allowed me to discover that constantly glancing back at the past prevented me from facing the future and trusting it. I accept transitory relationships more easily, I detach myself more easily from situations that need to be left behind, I am better at closing the door when a relationship ends without regret while thanking past memories. I can finally look at things and people one last time with a sense of lightness and say to myself: everything has had its time, give thanks and move on.
IN SHORT, EUROPE: AWAKENING
21-22 April 2023, Everyman Cinemas, Leeds
12-13 May 2023, Ciné Lumière, Institut Français UK, London
EUNIC London in collaboration with the European Union Delegation to the UK, LEEDS 2023 and Leeds International Film Festival is pleased to present the fifth edition of In Short, Europe short film festival, taking place in Leeds, 21 – 22 April 2023 and in London, 12-13 May 2023.
This edition, entitled Awakening, is organised into four strands: Explore, Grow, Surround and Dream and invites you to imagine new beginnings, reflect on your past experiences and dare to dream of a brighter future.
The programme has been curated by Ellie Hales, Film Programmer at Leeds International Film Festival.