Hard at work

Anahita Ghazvinizadeh and Yoni Goldstein the cinematographer of the film "Needle." (Orr Menirom / May 10, 2013)

It’s only been two years since Anahita Ghazvinizadeh moved from Iran to the U.S. to pursue a film-focused master’s in studio art at the School of the Art Institute Chicago, but the 23-year-old filmmaker already has racked up a nomination for the Cannes Film Festival’s prestigious Cinéfondation Prize.

“I was really surprised and very happy,” Ghazvinizadeh said. “We worked really hard on this film, but I wasn’t expecting that it would get into a great festival like Cannes.”

Ghazvinizadeh’s 21-minute short film, “Needle,” the story of a preteen girl getting her ears pierced, was one of 1,550 entries from 277 schools all over the world.

She said the nomination has been doubly rewarding because it recognizes the first film project that she completed in the U.S. after moving from Iran. Before “Needle,” Ghazvinizadeh had already completed a short film called “When the Kid was a Kid” and co-written a feature film, “Mourning,” in Iran, but “Needle” was the first project she made in the U.S.

“This was the first time that I made a film in a cultural and linguistic context that is totally new for me,” Ghazvinizadeh said. “I was more looking at it as some sort of experimentation, just an experience to see if I was capable of making film in this new place that I’m living. Because I was looking at it more just as an experience, the news really surprised me.”

SAIC professor Frederic Moffet, who worked with Ghazvinizadeh as one of her advisers for two semesters, said he is proud “Needle” will be showing at Cannes, especially since he knows what a struggle it was for Ghazvinizadeh to make the film so soon after moving to a new country.

“She seriously considered spending the past summer in Iran to shoot ‘Needle’ but decided to face the music and shoot the project in Chicago,” Moffet said. “She worked extensively with her performers, reworking the script with them to adapt it to American voices. All of these new challenges make the work stronger, more complex.”

Ghazvinizadeh already has bought her plane ticket to France to see the film’s screening at the festival on May 23. The three Cinéfondation Prizes will be awarded at a ceremony prior to the screening of the winning films on May 24.

She said the diversity of the SAIC community has been instrumental in helping her learn and find collaborators during her time in the MFA program.

“Going to school can be a great way of not only learning skills and knowledge for making films, but making a community,” Ghazvinizadeh said. “I had a chance to have a community to work with in Iran, and by being at SAIC, as soon as I came to Chicago I was able to form a new community of people here, which was very helpful.”

Ghazvinizadeh’s post-graduations plans are up in the air, but she has applied to several arts residency programs and is already working on the concept that will become her next short film that she hopes to make in the summer. After that, she said she’d like to make a feature film over the next year.

“Needle” will be screened at the Gene Siskel Film Center at 8 p.m. Friday p.m. alongside other student works as part of the Film, Video, New Media, Animation and Sound Festival. Tickets are free, but seating is limited. Find the full schedule of films here.

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