You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

MyFrenchFilmFestival: Spotlighting Swiss Doc ‘Before Summer Ends’ and Director Maryam Goormaghtigh

Goormaghtigh set out to make an immigration doc, but found a more universal story waiting to be told

Perhaps it was just wishful thinking, or lust for warmer temperatures, that was cause for organizers of this year’s MyFrenchFilmFestival to select so many summer-themed films for UniFrance’s annual Paris-based, and online streaming event. Or maybe there were just a lot of really good French-language films about summer over the last 18 months.

Maryam Goormaghtigh’s bromance road-trip “Before Summer Ends” is technically a documentary, but edited to look and feel like a fictional feature. It is a France-Switzerland co-production between Paris-based 4 A 4 Productions and Geneva’s Intermezzo Films. International distribution is being handled by Upside Distribution, with domestic responsibilities falling to Shellac.

The film follows three Iranian expats living in Paris, as one of them, Arash, prepares to go back to Iran, because he is struggling to acclimate to Parisian culture. In hopes of convincing him to stay, or perhaps more honestly as a final hoorah, his two best friends Hossein and Ashkan convince him to take one final road trip to the south of France, to show him a side of the country he’s never seen.

Along the way the three share poetry, flirt with waitresses, sleep under the stars and attend rural festivals. Eventually the three come across two free-spirited musicians, Charlotte and Michèle, and the earliest sparks of desire, the kind for which there is no possibility of anything long-term, start to burn.

Hossein, already happily married, cheers his friends on from the sidelines, until an unwelcome phone call from Iran rocks his world and forces him to make an unenviable decision.

The film had its European premiere at Cannes’s Acid showcase, was selected for Karlovy Vary, IDFA and London’s BFI Festival, and will have its Nordic premiere at this month’s Goteborg Festival, before heading to the Bertha Doc House in London, with additional stops forthcoming.

Goormaghtigh talked with Variety about the film, and her guiding principles when directing and working with non-professional actors.

You’ve said that you started filming these three friends four years ago. How much footage did you have to edit from?

It started as a film about them, and only later it became a film with them. At first, I was more interested in the subject of coming from a different country and knowing your mind and your heart may still be in Iran, but these buddies are here. I started like a documentary filmmaker just observing, but for the final movie, I had 70 hours of footage captured in two-and-a-half weeks on the road, and didn’t use any of the older footage.

Can you talk about the decision to include Charlotte and Michèle them as part of this story?

I love them; they are good friends. We made a little movie when they were 17 years old and 10 years later we wanted to do something else together. Charlotte loves big guys, and I told her I have a big Iranian friend, do you want to meet him for the movie I am making? I wanted the guys to meet girls on the road. The deal was, I had to organize a concert for the girls in the south of France, and in exchange Charlotte would meet my friend.

Far too often women filmmakers are only expected to make movies about women. What was it like doing this film all about the way male friends behave when they are alone?

When you are a girl you don’t always get access to male conversations, so I was like a little mouse, they forgot I was there completely because they were so used to the camera being there. I think maybe a film about women would be more complicated because I know them so well already.

What were your guiding principles while you were making this film?

I didn’t give them any dialogue. I just told them the scenario and said go. There was a lot of improvisation, and I had a lot of subjects in my mind that I collected for three years with them. As an example, I wanted Arash to explain how he made himself fat enough to avoid military service, but I never told him what to say. It was all true. The narrative arc, the fiction feel, came later in editing.

What were the real-world consequences of the film for the guys?

Something happened while filming. Arash became happier, more self-confident. I wanted that, but I didn’t write it, it just happened. Maybe it was the girls, maybe the south. Hossein’s big shock wasn’t good for him at the time, but it was good for the film, and he really did get that phone call.

What was it like working with non-professional actors?

They were always so conscious that they were making a movie. In the scene with the train, they knew they had to cut the discussion as the train passed, to give the audience time to think. They became great actors. When we started shooting I think they would have tried to talk over the train, but by the end of the shooting they knew what to do. By the end, I was making the film with them, not about them. After Cannes they even got proposals from other Iranian directors, but they just said: ‘No, no, we aren’t actors!’”

More Film

  • Aladdin

    China Box Office: 'Aladdin' Opens on Top With $19 Million Weekend

    Disney’s “Aladdin” opened on top of the Chinese box office with a less than magical $18.7 million debut weekend. According to data from Artisan Gateway, the film beat previous chart winner “Detective Pikachu” which earned $7.5 million in its third weekend. That score advances the cumulative China total for “Pikachu” to $83.3 million. The Guy [...]

  • 'Nina Wu' Review: Stylish, Glitchy, Provocative

    Cannes Film Review: 'Nina Wu'

    “They don’t just want to take my body, they want to take my soul!” So runs the overripe line of dialogue that actress Nina Wu (Wu Kexi) has to repeat again and again in “Nina Wu,” the fascinating, glitchy, stylish, and troublesome new film from Taiwanese director Midi Z (“The Road to Mandalay”). Nina practices [...]

  • 'All About Yves" Review: Feeble French

    Cannes Film Review: 'All About Yves'

    Benoit Forgeard’s dorky “All About Yves,” bizarrely chosen as the closing film of 2019’s Directors’ Fortnight selection in Cannes, is literally about an intelligent refrigerator that ascends to Eurovision fame as a rapper. Imagine Spike Jonze’s “Her” played for the cheapest of laughs, shorn of atmosphere, and absent all melancholic insight into our relationship with [...]

  • 'The Bare Necessity' Review: Offbeat, Charming

    Cannes Film Review: 'The Bare Necessity'

    A perfectly charmant way to, as the song has it, forget about your worries and your strife for 100 airy minutes, writer-director Erwan le Duc’s “The Bare Necessity” is a breezy little sweetheart of a debut, that threatens to give the rather ominous description “quirky French romantic comedy” a good name. In its dappled countryside [...]

  • Adam

    Cannes Film Review: 'Adam'

    With her debut feature “Adam,” Maryam Touzani allows her audience to sit back and relax comfortably into a beautifully made, character-driven little gem that knows when and how to touch all the right buttons. Taking the stories of two women, both frozen in existential stasis, and bringing them together in a predictable yet deeply satisfying [...]

  • 'To Live to Sing' Review: A

    Cannes Film Review: 'To Live to Sing'

    After his taut, impressive debut “Old Stone” which tracked with nightmarish relentlessness the high cost of compassion in modern urban China, Canadian-Chinese director Johnny Ma loosens his grip a little to deliver a softer, if not necessarily less pessimistic examination of the failing fortunes of a regional Sichuan Opera troupe. “To Live to Sing” is [...]

  • Hugh Jackman Sings Happy Birthday to

    Hugh Jackman Leads Massive One-Man Show Crowd in 'Happy Birthday' for Ian McKellen

    Hugh Jackman may have had to skip Ian McKellen’s birthday party to perform his one-man show, “The Man, The Music, The Show,” but that didn’t mean he couldn’t celebrate his “X-Men” co-star’s 80th. Jackman took a moment at the Manchester Arena Saturday to lead the sold-out audience — some 50,000 strong — in a rendition [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content