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

  • Spirit Awards Showcase Oscar Players and

    Spirit Awards Showcase Oscar Players and Also-Rans, With Heavy Hitters on Deck

    Five of the last eight best feature winners at the annual Film Independent Spirit Awards have gone on to win best picture at the Oscars, including a four-year streak from 2013-2016. It was a steadily evolving status quo that led former Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences governor Bill Mechanic to question his organization’s [...]

  • Bo Burnham34th Film Independent Spirit Awards,

    Bo Burnham Wants 'Eighth Grade' Star Elsie Fisher to Direct Him

    Bo Burnham won his third award in three weeks for “Eighth Grade” at the Spirit Awards and said he wants the film’s 15-year-old Elsie Fisher to direct him. “I’d love to work with Elsie again,” Burnham said backstage after winning the Best First Screenplay trophy.  “She wants to direct so I’d love to switch roles [...]

  • Nicole Holofcener: 'Can You Ever Forgive

    Nicole Holofcener: 'Can You Ever Forgive Me?' Director Was Cheated Out of an Oscar Nomination

    “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” screenwriter Nicole Holofcener offered a blunt assessment of the lack of Academy Awards recognition for director Marielle Heller, and women directors everywhere. “I feel Marielle was cheated and I feel badly about that,” Holofcener said backstage after winning a Spirit Award for screenplay with Jeff Whitty. Holofcener was originally attached [...]

  • Stephan James as Fonny and Brian

    2019 Indie Spirit Awards Winners: Complete List

    The 2019 Independent Spirit Awards took place on a beach in Santa Monica, Calif., with Barry Jenkins’ “If Beale Street Could Talk” taking the top prize for best feature along with best director for Jenkins. Ethan Hawke and Glenn Close took the prizes for best male lead and best female lead, respectively. Bo Burnham took [...]

  • Oscars Oscar Academy Awards Placeholder

    Hated It! How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Gripe About the Oscars

    Watching the Academy Awards telecast, then grousing about it the next day, has become a hipster parlor game — it’s what the Complete Oscar Experience now is. The complaints are legion, and we all know what they are, because we’ve all made them. The show was too long. The host bombed. His or her opening [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content