Tina Gharavi: I am meant to tell stories

Tina Gharavi, Filmaker

Tina Gharavi is a filmmaker whose work focuses on ‘untold stories, unheard voices’ and filmmaking from the margins. Tina has been hailed as one of the most inspirational and thought-provoking filmmakers of her generation. Since leaving Iran in 1979 she has been a true nomad (like her great-grandfather from the Bakhtiari tribe in Persia).

Carrying no less than four passports, she trained as a painter in the United States and studied cinema in France but currently resides in the North of England. She is noted for her innovative cross-platform work on migration. Sundance programmer Shari Frilot said of Tina Gharavi’s film ‘Closer’ that ‘it takes documentary to the next level.’ Since then, she has made endearing, inimitably voiced films from unique perspectives on subjects as diverse as Muhammad Ali, teenage sexuality, Yemeni-British sailors, The Lackawanna 6, death row exonerees, and lighthouses.

Using all her reserves of ingenuity, she recently completed her first feature with no formal film finance. ‘I Am Nasrine’ is a coming of age story of two teenage Iranian refugees in the North of England. The project patron Sir Ben Kingsley called it “a life enhancing film, an important and much needed film.” Tina Gharavi plans a change of direction with her next feature, a gangster film with girls, guns and the odd Iranian thrown in. Tina also teaches filmmaking at Newcastle University and has lectured worldwide including Oxford University, UCL, SUNY Buffalo and Croatia as well as other exotic locations.

Here we get a brief insight from Tina in this short interview.

You left your home country many years ago – If you travel back in time what would you say to yourself?

Pack for a long time, girl, you might not see this place for 23 years. Collect your drawings, they’ll mean something to you one day, and kiss your mother goodbye.

You have invested in your personal and professional development for many years now – who has supported you with this?

There have been many individuals and some to mention are: My art teacher, Mrs Prisco, from high school; Dr John Belton, my film professor; Beeban Kidron, one of my mentors; Lesley Walker, and an editor I worked with. Professionally, I’ve had a lot of support from various organisations in the UK Film Industry but also the arts too. There are many schemes but the best has been Guiding Lights, which is run by Lighthouse and the amazing Emily and Becca. They really deserve credit.

A painter, a filmmaker, passionate about story telling – what inspires you more?

Stories inspire me, the medium or form less so for me. I love stories that are told in images. I see the world through very strong graphical viewpoints.

What makes you feel so touched with migration and the stories of migrant people?

Migrant’s stories are heroic by nature. They are the Odyssey and the Illiad. They are epic and emotive by nature. They are the journey that many of us take, literal or metaphorical, which is to find home, to find ourselves.

If someone would like to make the film of your life – what are the main things that you would like to watch there?

I’d like to know how it ends. I’m interested in closure. Did I use life well? Was it wasted? Did any of it matter? I am obsessed with death so this is the wrong (or right) question for me. I hope there is a “To be continued” but I don’t imagine there is.

What is the most important thing in your life?

Cinema is the only thing that gives my life meaning. I keep waiting for something else to mean more… but it doesn’t. If I could disappear into the desert and make films, watch films and be surrounded by it, I would.

What is your mission in life – if you have discovered it?

I am unsure about the mission, all I know is that I am meant to tell stories and help make this world a better place. That is all.