ARTISTS OF MECHELEN – Iranian filmmaker Mahyar Khosravani on building bridges in Mechelen: ‘People in the refugee centre aren’t a threat’
Iranian filmmaker Mahyar Khosravani arrived in Mechelen at the end of 2019 with his wife, Faranak. While they stayed in a refugee centre, they fell in love with the city and made a short film about living there. But Mechelen isn’t perfect. Mahyar felt a gap between locals and asylum seekers. Both communities look at each other through a stereotypical lens. And he is trying to bridge that gap.
Mahyar was born in 1984, in Tehran, the capital of Iran. Ever since he was ten years old, he has been using a wheelchair. As he found himself with a lot of free time, that’s when his love for movies started. At the age of 16, he started to study cinema and teach himself how to create a movie. If the dial-up internet wasn’t slow enough already, he had to use a dictionary because he couldn’t understand English.
He continued to make movies. In total, he has directed 12 short films. With two of them; he even won two awards: Special Prize of the Secretary of One-Minute Film Festival, with The First Step (2010) and Special Award at the Kish Festival in Iran, with My old page of my Note (2011). Despite winning these awards, he is still trying to find his way to be a filmmaker in Mechelen. Mahyar made his first silent movie A normal day in collaboration with Cinemaximiliaan, which premiered on the 19th of April.
‘Living in Iran is like living a double life’
Bridge between locals in Mechelen and asylum seekers
When asked what the biggest difference is between Iran and Belgium, Mahyar gives us one clear answer: freedom. ‘Living in Iran is like living a double life, there is your life in public and the one at home. We feel more freedom here.’ He said Iran doesn’t have many foreigners. Here, they have the opportunity to learn about other cultures.
‘What I wanted to show with the short film Dank je wel Mechelen is that people in the refugee camp aren’t a threat, they are an opportunity for the society’
Mahyar stayed in the temporary refugee centre in Mechelen for a year and a half. After being open for three years, the centre closed in 2022. As a thank you, Mahyar made a short film about living in Mechelen as a refugee. It’s a way to build a bridge between the locals and asylum seekers. ‘What I wanted to show with the short film Dank je wel Mechelen is that people in the refugee centre aren’t a threat, they are an opportunity for society.’
More stories to tell
‘I really want to make a documentary about Mechelen. I think the city deserves to be more known and there is a rich history I would want to share with the world.’ But the biggest problem Mahyar currently faces is finding producers to fund his moviemaking dreams.
‘I have to search for producers at every screening of my movie, can I convince them to invest in my idea?’
To fulfill his dream of making a feature film, Mahyar would need a full crew for at least twenty days. ‘I have to search for producers whenever I can, can I convince them to invest in my idea?’ says Mahyar. Even in Iran, he would knock on many doors, but barely any would give him a chance. He is still trying to find a way to share his art with the world.
One thing Mahyar is sure of is that he will keep living in Mechelen. He has built a network of friends and found his favourite places to visit, such as the Grote Markt. Mahyar and his wife Faranak describe Mechelen as their second home. ‘We find the city to be calm, and the overall environment has good vibes.’
Text: © Andrei Boloș, Charlotte Mermans and Ona Van Dyck Colomer
Photo: © Charlotte Mermans