Saeed Mayahy is an Iranian film director born in 1991 in Bushehr. He graduated from Bushehr Film School in 2013, where he debuted in with the documentary “The Camera” in 2012.
His documentary film Finish Line (2019), tells the story of a young female athlete in Iran. After a break due to a serious accident, she is fighting to return to her field, but is faced with huge complications from the outside world, as she does not comply to wear a hijab, while competing in international matches. In Don’t Worry Be Happy, an underground Erotic Illustrator in Iran. As he experiences his art achieve a sudden internationally popularity from the outside world, it is still prohibited within his own country. Domestically, discovered by authorities, he is caught by Iranian police and is accused by The Law of Islamic Ethics for making these illustrations.
Common for Saeed Mayahy’s films, is that he uses the film media in all of them, to explore and depict the hidden as well as visible boundaries found in society. The paradoxical distinctions which emerges between life in private and public spheres, and the inevitable enmeshment of individual identity between those contradicting forces.
How did you meet Dorna Mahini and how did the idea of making a film with her arise?
I met Dorna around eight years ago when a friend introduced us, and I was immediately captivated by her incredible story. From our very first meeting, it was evident that her story was more than worthy of becoming a short documentary. We began by conducting interviews with her, and subsequently, we captured footage of her daily life.
The film covers many years of Dorna Mahini’s life. How long were you filming?
We began the filming process eight years ago, and it surprisingly took only three weeks to complete. However, I wasn’t satisfied with the initial version, and if you watch the entire documentary now, the first part consists of that early edit. Then, suddenly, after three years, she called me and explained all the experiences she had been through. It was at that moment I realized it was the right time to finalize this documentary and transform it into something remarkable. The second part of the filming process took around five months to complete . The second part was added after her experiences of deprivation and her decision to immigrate from Iran.
In the film you use a lot of found footage such as home videos or television news. How many hours of material did you have in the film editing?
I believe that found footage has the ability to elevate the level of authenticity in any documentary, and thanks to Dorna, we had access to all of her found footage, including her athlete footage, family footage, and news clips. In total, we had approximately 1.5 hours of found footage for our short documentary.
The film stands out in its cinematographic editing. How did you learn and who are your references?
I must express my gratitude to my cinematographer, Masoud Kazerouni, for his outstanding work on this project. In fact, before starting the project, we watched many sports documentaries for inspiration. I took on the role of editor for this short documentary myself, and I had numerous references for editing styles. Interestingly, we didn’t have any specific references for both cinematography and editing. Instead, we blended various styles in these two fields to develop the unique style that you can see in ‘Finish Line’ today.
Hamid Jamali does a great job on sound. What instructions did you give him and what was it like working with him?
Hamid is not only a great friend but also a professional artist in both sound and VFX fields. Honestly, he was so skilled that he didn’t need any advice from me. In the end, we can all appreciate how great, humble, and fantastic the sound design of this documentary has turned out to be.
How has the experience of filming this story about Dorna Mahini been and what have you learned throughout the process?
‘Finish Line’ was my first debut documentary as a director, and now, having created three more documentaries, I can see how this project helped me broaden my perspective in the world of documentary filmmaking. I can simply say that making ‘Finish Line’ was a profound learning experience for me. Undoubtedly, I made some mistakes along the way, but as I stand here today, I am incredibly proud of my work on this project, and I feel truly honored to have produced ‘Finish Line’.
What film projects do you have for the future?
I am currently working on a feature documentary titled ‘Save The Cat,’ and I am fortunate to have received funding from a European foundation to help bring this project to completion.