Iranian-British animator Maryam Mohajer’s Grandad was a Romantic is one of the three shorts up for a BAFTA Award in the animated short category. In the beautifully crafted project, a young girl tells the story of her Iranian grandparents’ love and marriage. We recently caught up with the talented London-based director (a Royal College of Art graduate), to find out more about her interesting new project, which has been receiving a lot of attention on the global festival circuit recently:
Animag: Can you tell us a little bit about the inspiration for your short?
Maryam: I was thinking about the old love stories between our grandparents or great grandparents in Iran. I was fascinated by how passionate and expressive they were. Falling in love at first sight. It’s also based on a few people that I knew or knew of.
When did you start working on it and how long did it take to finish?
I started in October 2018 and finished it in February of last year. It was about four to five months of 15-hour days, no weekends or holidays at my studio (attic room).
What was your budget?
Very, very low! It was a self-funded film.
How many people worked on it?
I did the writing, direction, animation, editing and production. Tanera Dawkins is the music composer. Sue Harding is the foley artist. Fonic [co-founder] Barnaby Templer did the sound mix and sound design.
What animation tools did you use to create it?
It’s a mix of hand drawn, collage, then graphic tablet and TVPaint.
What do you love about working in the short animation format?
I really like the structure of a short film or a short story. I love the concept of timing within a short film.
When did you know you wanted to work in animation?
I think since I was a young girl! Maybe without knowing it; I remember myself as a kid staring at people walking, talking, eating (not very polite, as I was reminded many times); I have always been fascinated by people’s movements and gestures. Animals, too. I’ve always been passionate about storytelling as well.
What are your plans for the future?
My new script for another short animation is finished and I’ll be making my new film.
What do you hope audiences will take away from Grandad Was a Romantic?
I hope they have a good laugh. I hope they see the characters simply as human beings very similar to themselves.
Can you talk about the importance of animation and art in bridging cultures and avoiding the horrible chasms created by governments, politics and religions around the world?
It’s a form of storytelling; when someone tells us a story, we tend to listen more and it’s more interesting. Also in my films, I’d like to show different people from different backgrounds simply as human beings; they fall in love just like everyone else, they may do crazy things for love just like everyone else, and at the end of the day they enjoy laughing at a good joke just like everyone else. At a time when there’s so much talk about “building walls” and “sending people back where they came from,” I think it’s helpful (and necessary) to see how similar we all are no matter where we come from.
Learn more about Maryam Mohajer and her work at https://vimeo.com/user5919200.