Retouch Director Kaveh Mazaheri on the Decisions We Make

Tell us about your filmmaking background.

I have been making film since 2007. I am thirty-six years old, began my career with writing and publishing film critics for different film magazine. So far, I have made five short films and thirty-six documentaries including shorts. ?Retouch? is my recent short film which has won the best short film in Tribeca Film Festival, Palm Springs Film Festival, Krakow, Travers City, and Fajr international Film Festival. Also it was nominated for the best short film in Moscow, Encounters, Durban, Dokufest, Villa do Conde and Sao Paolo.

Where did you get the idea for the premise?

Some years ago, through one of these social networks I was watching a video about a young boy leaving his phone in a corner, recording himself. Right in front of camera lying down on a bench, he tried to push up the barbell. Even by watching those barbells one could notice its weight is more than one hundred kg. It is out of question doing such thing with no one standing on the side, because it is dangerous!

The boy, push up the barbell, pull it down and he was not able to push up again. Meanwhile the camera was still recording. It was a horrible scene! The boy was literally dying. He was screaming seeking help, but no one was there. After two minutes, it changed into a grotesque. The boy moved his legs, up and down, struggling, but he couldn?t help it! After five minutes, the camera was cut, and luckily he was saved, but it was not clear how.

This video was shared on internet. Right after watching this video I was thinking such video that kept me staring at screen, no blinking due to such stress full situation, and then convert the whole stress in to an absurd situation, without a doubt could be very interesting topic for a short movie. For a long time, I kept it in my mind until I found the main character of the film. However, what made me ambitious writing the script was its ending.

What did you focus on to get inside the mind of a woman making these choices?

Let?s be frank, we, all the men, at in any part of the world, know what we do with women. Violence exists all around the world, but the type and the level is varied. As a result, marvelous selecting Maryam`s character in Retouch could have social and historical reasons which as you may know during the film there is no direct manifest about it. Because of this reason audience from different countries could connect to the film. Due to the fact that anyone, based on his/her personal life experience can find strong reason for Maryam`s decision and understand her.

In subtle ways, you convinced me that Maryam was in a pattern of being put-upon, dismissed, and taken for granted. In your mind, has Maryam been looking for this opportunity, why or why not?

Maryam had thought of this situation several times. According to a very well-known research about murdering husband, the majority of wives who murders their husbands thought of it frequently, analyze it in their mind including the details and its consequences. It has happened to many of us, moments we like our partner get shut up and doesn?t speak for a moment, or even we might hit his/her head to the wall. But rationally we never do such insane act! These are feelings which might pass through any one`s mind some times. The circumstance displayed in the film, is one of those ones which Maryam makes it real.


For Western audiences, help explain what her status would now be. A Western woman would be ?free? of the relationship now as a single woman.

To me, when a person murders someone or like Maryam participates in killing some body, would never be free. This is just a beginning of captivity. Maryam after the film ends finds herself in to a very intricate game and has to pretend for the rest of her life. The only one who knows the real story is she, herself; and in order to retouch and censor the reality she has to lie to everyone, even to her daughter forever. It seems she is free now but in reality she has to carry the lie she has made up herself. I think the intricacy in which Maryam is surrounded with, doesn?t let us pronouncing the idea of what will happen to her next.

Retouch cleverly works in Maryam’s job and the way she ‘retouches’ her life. What were the important aspects of that for you as you filmed?

I really wanted to make a strong connection between dramatic and thematic layer of the film. Maryam`s job is retouch and censoring the photos for a film magazine and what Maryam does in the main story is the same thing. In other words, she censors and changes the reality which has happened. She tries her best to show a complete upside down reality.

What do you think audiences should take away from the short?

I like them to think about the film for a long time, with not good feeling, leaving the hall with ambiguity. I don?t like them to make a one-line conclusion with a warp up answer. To be honest, it is more important to me during this twenty minutes they remember a character called Maryam with her mysterious character, real and alive, rather than shocking the audience.


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