Interview by Jad Salfiti
The title of writer-director Faraz Shariat’s electrifying debut feature, No Hard Feelings (German title: Futur Drei), is an ode to a millennial generation shrugging off hurtful moments or hardships. “It’s a coping mechanism for many BPOCS (Black/ Person of Colour) to survive racism,” asserts the 26 year old.
Born in Cologne, his film is a cinematic mix tape punctuated with the visual grammar of a pop music video and the immediacy required for the internet age. It depicts the son of Iranian immigrants (Parvis) brought up in Germany. After Parvis is caught shoplifting, he is sentenced to community service hours as an interpreter in a refugee centre.
Premiering at last year’s Berlin Film Festival, the film took home the prestigious Teddy award – which is focused on LGBTQ+ storytelling. Now it’s coming to the cinemas across Holland as part of IQMF On Tour. For the director it’s momentous occasion to screen the film with IQMF as an alumni of the Academy (he pitched an early version of the script at IQMF’s Academy in 2015).
Jad spoke on behalf of IQMF to the nascent filmmaker about being inspired by pop music, post-migrant life and just why Future Drei is being heralded the future of queer filmmaking.
Jad: Firstly, congratulations on the film. How did it come about?
In the summer of 2015, when I was 19, I was sentenced to community hours after shoplifting at a department store. It was proposed that I should work community hours as a Farsi translator in an accommodation for unaccompanied minor refugees.
I started to reflect on the migration story of my family – my parents fled Iran in 1979 – and my position as a second-generation immigrant in Germany. I was suddenly standing in front of people who, from a hegemonic German point of view, look similar to me, but are in fact in a completely different situation. We then fictionalized some of these experiences for the film.
Jad: No Hard Feelings is semi-autobiographical, your real life parents act in the film as the protagonist’s parents – which real experiences is the film based on?
It’s hyper personal! I tend to stick to fiction but a lot of the creative process is inspired by personal experiences. I ask myself: “what would the fictionalized versions of these experiences looks like?” I try to distill the most political potential out of every experience.
I really wanted to share some of the experiences within queer communities in Germany, to try be as honest as possible but also unapologetic. There are a lot of images, experiences and small observations I’ve made within the last 15 years that have been compiled into this film.
My co-writer Paulina Lawrence and I always treated this film as a mosaic. It’s a prism through which we see and shed light on our experiences. There are a lot of things in this film that happened. The masturbation scene is mine (he laughs). The mum and dad character are played by and based on my real parents.
Jad: The film tackles many issues– including racism. Following the killing of George Floyd in the U.S., a debate on racism erupted in Germany too. As a filmmaker with a migrant background, what has your experience been with racism within German society? Is the film exemplary of Germany or do you see parallels with other Western-European societies?
I think as in any other western white dominated country, racism is not a singular occurrence or experience that defines migrants or BPOC people. Rather it is a system that structures our every day life. It’s a system of discrimination based on the way you look, speak, the way your name sounds or is spelled. I experience racism here as a systematic way of creating hierarchies between different races created by the white norm. On a more emotional level, a lot of people of colour find themselves explaining racism to white people. Its something that white people here aren’t fully ready to face. There is a lot of discussion within film industry about diversity and intersectional filmmaking (i.e. thinking about the factors race, class and gender together), but the presence of racism is not something that’s easy to discuss.
Jad: Behind the film is the “Jünglinge” collective that you founded with Paulina Lorenz and Raquel Molt in Hildesheim. What is the collective and how did it form?
There are three of us on a day-to-day basis. But there are many others we have worked with over the last 5 years, who we met on our university course (culture studies at Hildesheim University). During the course, we did modules on queer studies, post-colonial studies, and feminist theory. We then taught ourselves filmmaking. We’re a collective that aims to make queer, antiracist, feminist filmmaking. Not about singular things, but about issues that intersect. We are very interested in contemporary pop culture; aesthetics we find in pop music videos and fashion. Mainstream thinking inspires us.
Collective work is extremely intense, because it means you have to constantly reflect and work against hierarches and internalized mechanisms of power, which are also very present in the filmmaking industry.
Jad: Could you say something about the festival life of the film after its successes at Berlinale?
There have been lots of online screenings. The film arrives in UK at Fringe Queer Film Festival in two weeks; it will be available for screening with TLA in US. The cinema release Germany is going really, really well. We just reached 20,000 visitors, which is great for a film like No Hard Feelings, especially during a pandemic.
IQMF: Finally, No Hard Feelings is about receiving a theatrical release in the Netherlands – as well as part of IQMF on Tour. Describe your connection to the festival.
It’s actually an intimate relationship that I have with the IQMF, because I attended the first edition in 2015/2016 (ED Check which date). I was super young and I only had two pages written of No Hard Feelings, and I pitched it for the first time publicly. It was a very empowering experience, because there were people from the industry, programmers and other Queer BPOC artists. I had never really been to queer BPOC spaces, and I was very shy and intimidated by it but it paved the ground for me. Showing the film now as part of IQMF On Tour is a full-circle experience. I think IQMF is super important, so few spaces exist for young BPOC crative, the curation is great.
Jad: Why is there a need for queer and migrant film festivals to exist?
It’s extremely important today. A lot of people ask why I define myself with terms like queer or BPOC. But we live in a time when these categories help to lift up and make structures visible. A lot of people deny that sexism, racism or discrimination against LGBTQ+ people exists. Spaces like IQMF help to lift up minorities. For my film, I needed feedback from the right people, who understood my experience and IQMF connected me to other people and helped with funding.
Jad: What do you have lined up for the future?
I’m currently shooting Druck, which is a German remake of Scam (English: Shame), a Norwegian teen drama web series. I’m in talks with people in the US and UK, and I have an interest to work in Anglo world. There is also a queer fantasy series about the life of three Pari sisters – Pari are magical, fantastical, angel creatures. It’s derived from pre-Islamic Persian mythology. They then crash into life in Germany.
No Hard Feelings is screening as part of IQMF on Tour in Holland, tour dates can be found here