Ramin Bahrani on outsiders and Iran

SGlobal stories have made Ramin Bahrani one of America’s most important new directors. Each of his films, whether “Goodbye Solo” or “99 Homes”, has received awards at international festivals. Now the 45-year-old has adapted the successful novel “The White Tiger”. The film just started on Netflix.

Mr. Bahrani, you are an Iranian American. Does the culture of your immigrant parents still affect your work?

Yes, fundamentally. I was born and raised in North Carolina, studied in New York and still live there now. But I spent three years of my adult life in Iran. The fact that I can see the world through two different pairs of eyes has shaped my identity immensely, and later my work too. Iranian cinema has impressed me since I was a teenager. For me it all belongs together – all these influences made me who I am now.

You were socialized in America. How did you decide to live in your parents’ country for a long time?

When I was in my early twenties, I wanted to travel to Iran for a few weeks, for the first time ever, with my parents, who had not been there for 25 years. After six weeks they flew back to the United States, while I decided to stay a little longer. That turned into three years.

What drew you to Iran, a home that is foreign to you?

I wanted to find out more about myself, wanted to know what had shaped my parents and where everything came from that they had given me, whether language, values, literature or fairy tales, all the stories of my childhood. It was time to grapple with my family’s past and develop a deeper relationship to my cultural substrate. I wanted to know what connects me to Iran and what culture feeds my films.


The Iranian-American director Ramin Bahrani.
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Image: Getty

How did this search for identity end?

I have a clearer vision of who I am as an artist. I’ve always been good at looking where no one else is looking, into the abysses, the cracks and corners. I like to show people you don’t normally see in films – the lower class, the immigrants, the working class. You have already seen these people with me in “Man Push Cart” or “Chop Shop”, now everything leads to “The White Tiger”. I waited more than fifteen years to make this film.

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