Variety has been given exclusive access to the trailer for Shirin Neshat and Shoja Azari’s satirical, surrealistic film “Land of Dreams,” which opens the Horizons Extra section of the Venice Film Festival. The filmmakers won the Silver Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival for their first feature film, “Women Without Men.”
“Land of Dreams” stars Sheila Vand, Matt Dillon, William Moseley and Isabella Rossellini. Beta Cinema has sales rights worldwide, except for the U.S., which is being handled by UTA.
The screenplay is by the late Jean-Claude Carrière and Azari. Carrière, who died earlier this year, was Luis Buñuel’s screenwriting partner on six of Buñuel’s films. Carrière won an Oscar for the short film “The Anniversary,” and was Oscar nominated for Buñuel’s “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie” and “That Obscure Object of Desire,” as well as Philip Kaufman’s “The Unbearable Lightness of Being.” He received an honorary Academy Award in 2015. He also co-wrote Oscar winner “The Tin Drum.”
“Land of Dreams” is a satirical story, with a surreal, dreamlike quality reminiscent of Buñuel’s films. It takes place in the near future in a small town in America, and follows Simin, an Iranian woman on a journey to discover what it means to be a free American.
She works for the Census Bureau which, in an effort to control its citizens, has begun a program to record their dreams. Unaware of this devious plot, Simin is torn between her compassion for those whose dreams she is recording and a truth she must find within.
Haunted by the fact that her father was executed by the Islamic regime in Iran, Simin has developed a coping mechanism through a world of fantasy and playacting. She captures her interviewees’ dreams, secretly impersonates them in Farsi, and publishes them on social media where she finds a growing Iranian audience.
Simin soon meets Mark, a drifter, a free soul, and a poet, who declares his love for her at first sight, and Alan, a cynical cowboy turned detective, full of machismo and the American spirit of adventure.
Neshat is an Iranian artist and filmmaker living in New York, who has often worked with fellow Iranian Azari. She was the recipient of the Golden Lion Award at the 48th Venice Biennale in 1999, and the Silver Lion Award at the 66th Venice Film Festival in 2009, for her first feature film, “Women Without Men,” which was co-directed by Azari. Neshat’s second feature film, “Looking for Oum Kulthum,” also co-directed by Azari, was based on the life of the Egyptian singer Oum Kulthum. It played in Venice Days, a sidebar of Venice Film Festival, in 2017.
Neshat says “Land of Dreams” is one of her “most personal works” so far. She says: “Similar to Simin, although I have lived longer in the U.S.A. than in my own country, I have never fully integrated in the American culture, yet I have also always felt a great distance between me and Iran since I have been living in self-exile for so long. So, I identify with Simin’s emotional, psychological, moral and political dilemma as she finds herself conflicted between two very opposing cultures and always an outcast. Therefore, while ‘Land of Dreams’ primarily appears as a social critique of American society, it is really an expression of my experience in America.”
Neshat and Azari came to the U.S. to escape the repression of Iran’s totalitarian regime, but Neshat is concerned about a shift in mood within their adopted country. “Like many other immigrants, I have personally considered America as a place of democracy, compassion, a nation that welcomes the displaced, a country that has been built by the blood of immigrants,” she says. “But these days, as many other Americans, we have become disillusioned with the new shift in the country. To my eyes, America has never been more divided ideologically and economically. We see a growing culture of racism, bigotry, and conservativism that was never so present in the past.”
Neshat adds: “Sadly, the future doesn’t look very promising as there is an increasing mistrust in the government for deepening the divide among its citizens and a very problematic foreign policy; planting chaos and civil war in countries they intervene in and later abandon with little compassion and respect for human rights. This is not the America I knew.
“Ultimately ‘Land of Dream’ is an artistic and satirical way of showing how deceptive and dangerous power structures are; and how it may not be too far-fetched to imagine that one day in the near future U.S. government agencies, such as the Census Bureau, could be incorporated into super power corporations such as Facebook, Twitter and Amazon.”
The film’s producers are Amir Hamz, Sol Tryon and Christian Springer. It is a Bon Voyage Films, Palodeon Pictures and Land of Dreams production.