×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

British-Iranian Helmer Mandi Riggi Shows No ‘Mercy’ in Offbeat Debut

F. Murray Abraham, Hiam Abbass topline MIA pitching forum selection

When the matriarch of a British-Iranian family goes missing in London, her loved ones find themselves on an offbeat spiritual journey to track her down, setting their old world traditions on a collision course with their new world surroundings.

Inspired by her own Iranian roots, “Mercy” is the feature debut of British-Iranian director Mandi Riggi. Andrew Eaton (“The Crown”) will executive produce, with a cast that includes F. Murray Abraham, Hiam Abbass, Emun Elliott, Sarah Snook and Yasmin Paige. The film was selected for MIA’s co-production market and pitching forum.

“Mercy” draws on Riggi’s upbringing in the U.K., where she lived until the age of 14, after her parents left Iran in the wake of the 1979 revolution. Though they arrived “with hope in their eyes” and plans for a better life, the director said the bittersweet decision weighed on them long afterward.

“These are immigrants who can never go back to their own country,” Riggi said. “So I grew up with the kind of parents who are always looking back. There was a lot of nostalgia for a life that they could never have.”

Growing up, Riggi saw glimpses of Iranian life in the colorful diaspora community around her. As she later matured into an accomplished scripter and playwright, though, she avoided writing about her family life, and her relationship to her roots. “I never wanted to be typecast as that Iranian person who writes about Iranian things,” she said.

It wasn’t until her father became terminally ill that she decided to write a “love letter to my parents, and to their country of origin.” It was a difficult task. “I wrote it as a way to deal with the grief in advance,” she said. “It was like a cleansing to me.”

Riggi and producer Kevin Comer, of Psychonaut Films, have been in Rome looking to close more financing and meet with distributors.

Talks with a potential DoP are underway. Riggi said “Mercy” will be shot in the energetic vein of Pedro Almodovar, who the director said “does a lovely job combining comedy and tragedy.” She added that it would be a natural fit for her movie.

“Persian people…are larger than life characters,” she said. “They’re very boisterous. They wear their hearts on their sleeves.”

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Depeche ModeDepeche Mode in concert at

    Longtime Depeche Mode Director Talks Intimate New Concert Film, ‘Spirits in the Forest’

    The members of Depeche Mode take a backseat in Anton Corbijn’s new concert film, “Depeche Mode: Spirits in the Forest.” Instead, the director shifts the spotlight to six fans, whose personal stories are woven throughout footage from the final night of band’s Global Spirit Tour in Berlin. Originally, the Dutch director simply wanted to create [...]

  • The Aeronauts

    How Lee Walpole Created Complete Sonic Immersion for 'The Aeronauts'

    For Lee Walpole, sound mixing and editing for “The Aeronauts” was about cause and effect. “If she (Felicity Jones) pulls a line in the basket, the line must affect the balloon and they get picked up by the wind. It’s cause and effect. You hear a wisp of wind, you hear a flutter of the [...]

  • 180423_A24_Day_03B_0897.jpg

    'The Lighthouse,' 'Uncut Gems' Lead Spirit Awards Nominations

    “The Lighthouse” and “Uncut Gems” led the 2020 Film Independent Spirit Awards nominations with five each, while “Give Me Liberty” and “Honey Boy” took four apiece. “Uncut Gems,” “A Hidden Life,” “Clemency,” “The Farewell” and “Marriage Story” are up for best feature. Female lead nods went to Karen Allen for “Colewell,” Hong Chau for “Driveways,” [...]

  • Frozen 2

    How the 'Frozen' Music Team Helped Move the Story Forward in Disney's Sequel

    With Disney’s 2013 “Frozen” ranking as the highest-grossing animated film of all time and its Oscar-winning song “Let It Go” now an iconic empowerment anthem, how can the filmmakers and songwriters, reunited for “Frozen 2,” top the tale of sisters Elsa and Anna? “It was all about wanting to tell more of the story,” explains co-director [...]

  • Ben Affleck

    Ben Affleck to Direct and Produce Historical Drama 'King Leopold's Ghost'

    Ben Affleck will direct and produce the historical drama “King Leopold’s Ghost,” set in the early 20th Century in the Congo. The project will be developed by One Community. Affleck will produce via his Pearl Street Films banner, alongside Martin Scorsese who will produce via his Sikelia Productions banner. Harry and Gina Belafonte will also [...]

  • The Two Popes Marriage Story Netflix

    Streamers Ramp Up Golden Globes Race With More Contenders Than Ever

    More films from streaming services are in the awards race this year than ever, prompting some handwringing among awards season voters — most notably AMPAS board governor Steven Spielberg — about whether SVOD films with limited theatrical runs are leading to the demise of theaters and deserving of the same consideration as traditional releases. Netflix’s [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content