Whistler Film Festival Filmmaker Interview: Sonia K Hadad on EXAM

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Iranian filmmaker Sonia K. Hadad’s short film, Exam, is a compact, well-crated truth-based crime drama that delves into how familial pressures impact the life of an Iranian teenage girl. On the days of an important exam that will determine her future at school, the girl reluctantly agrees to her father’s behest that she deliver a packet of cocaine. Exam is among the films nominated for an AWFJ EDA Award at Whistler Film Festival 2019.

Jennifer Merin: What your film is about — both in story and theme?

Sonia K Hadad: Exam is a crime conflict film and the protagonist is a teenage girl who reluctantly agrees to his father request to deliver a packet of cocaine on the day of an important exam, and a series of unforeseen events that threaten to derail the transaction and jeopardize her future at school.

Merin: How is your film stylistically distinctive?

Sonia K Hadad: I always have conscious attention to details, precisely the tone of dialogues, small acts, and the essential factor: the time of tension and the climax point! In Exam, I have focused mostly on characters’ miniature acts, looks, and body movements. The scenes (specifically the class scene) are all about the actresses’ gazes and the way they work with their face, eyes, lips and their hands. I believe these details are the essential elements to form the mood of the scenes and story.

Merin: How and why did you encounter and commit to the subject/theme of your film and to the main characters in it?

Sonia K Hadad: My movie’s subject was based on an actual event, and the story derives from my experiences at school and the struggles we had with our strict principals and chiefs. For me, the school was all about restrictions, suppression, and stress. The school’s atmosphere was a reflection and metaphor of a controlled society and cultural crash, which you could see all the social failures symbols in it! I always wanted to illustrate the experiences I had faced, so when I came across the real story about drug dealing at high school, I decided to recreate all those experiences and actual characters. I had all the images with all the details in my mind and just needed to dramatize the story with that true story’s elements.

Merin: What did you learn about filmmaking from making the film?

Sonia K Hadad: Each movie and with its experiences opens a new window to an intact world for me. In every new project, I get fascinated by the magical world of storytelling. Every scene and every shot is a new challenge to learn something new about technical aspects and also about the ways of interacts with your cast and crew.

Merin: What were your biggest challenges in making the film?

Sonia K Hadad: The Biggest Challenge for me is the process of working on the plot, writing the screenplay, developing characters, and the last and most importantly: to make sure if the story/ script is genuinely appealing to me.

Merin: Do you think that being female gave you a distinct perspective and/or way of handling the filmmaking process?

Sonia K Hadad: As a female director, I can Illustrate stories through the eyes of a strong female individual, the perspective that has been mostly quiet and maybe suppressed, especially in societies like the one I am coming from.

Merin: What are your plans for the future?

Sonia K Hadad: My next step is to make my feature movie next year, and my ultimate goal in filmmaking and cinema is not only to explore the experimental milieu but to integrate it with the theoretical realm.

Merin: Who are the filmmakers whose work has inspired/influenced your own?

Sonia K Hadad: Krzysztof Kieślowski, Agnès Varda, Darren Aronofsky, Lars von Trier, and Chris Marker with his great documentaries and experimental movies!

Merin: What advice do you have for other female Filmmakers who are trying to make their way through a still male-dominated industry?

Sonia K Hadad: My main issue was (and still is) that most of the stories are told by men, for men. We (women) need to make our way across the boundaries, limitations, and restraints. We need a stable society to build equality and give every woman a chance to fulfill her potential in every field and major, specifically cinema. I believe the growth of women’s participation in different sections of projects and the cinema industry can decrease the male-domination.

ABOUT SONIA K HADAD: Sonia K. Hadad is an Iranian writer and director. She studied Film and Media Arts (M.F.A) at Emerson College in Boston. She was born in 1989, in Tehran, and was primarily educated in her native country. She holds diplomas in Physics/ Mathematics and graphic design. In 2005 Sonia started her theatre acting career and has played in theatres, public performances, TV shows. In 2009 she completed her B.A in dramatic literature from Azad University of Art and Architecture. While pursuing her bachelor’s degree she participated in different professional Filmmaking, Installation, and editing workshops. Writing short stories for magazines and acting led her to her main interests: Film and Installation Art. Sonia moved to the U.S. in 2013 to continue her education in filmmaking, and she began making short films. In her most recent works, Sonia makes an effort to explore people’s inner lives, women’s social and personal issues, shame, and struggles with their deepest fears through different art forms and media.

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