The start of her filmmaking career
When Chowra Makaremi took a camera into her hands for the first time, she did not have the ambition of making a movie. Having studied words and theories during her PhD in anthropology, she was neither accustomed to working with images, nor had she any other experience in this field. Despite that, she bought a camera in 2007 and went to Iran, her homeland, to film places and people in order to find out more about her mother, a member of the Mojahedin-e khalq party; she was imprisoned and later executed due to the opposition to the Islamist authorities who were in power then. The director says: "Later on, when I thought of making a movie, I tried to remain faithful to this first impulse so as to produce Hitch: An Iranian Story with all my heart." Only in 2014 did Chowra start taking her amateur filming as a base for a documentary, trying to reveal some of the most terrible things in the Iranian history.
From the first impetus to an oeuvre
Why did Chowra suddenly feel the impulse to buy a camera to record a film in Iran that summer instead of just discovering more facts about her mother? Chowra cannot explain. However, she soon realised that the process of shooting is not only about bringing a camera: you have to take care of devices, keep the DVs safe and bring them back home, and primarily you must think of who, where and, especially in a country like Iran, how you film. Chowra explains: "You need an authorization from the Ministry of Culture in order to shoot in Iran but I did not have one. For this reason my research could not be spoken about loudly in public. Furthermore, my approach was rooted in something intimate, the family, so I had to consider the feelings of my relatives who sometimes were afraid to be shown in the film speaking about politics." For instance, there was no way to go even close to the prison where Chowra's mother served her sentence, although the director wanted to film that place, at least from the outside.
Chowra's developing desire to know more about these past political happenings, especially in connection with her own family history, were mostly triggered when she discovered a diary left behind by her grandfather. It is a hundred-page-long testimony, which was written a few months after Chowra's mother was killed in the 1988 massacre. She remembers: "My grandfather died two decades ago, but when I found his very powerful texts in 2004, it pushed me to do research devoted to my mom. I have always wanted to know more but I thought everything was buried in the past. I didn't see any thread I could follow that would lead me back to those events." Her grandfather's diary brought some hope: it was still possible to trace some facts and memories, even after all these years. It wasn't too late.