“There is some reality. Not reality – but the side of reality that is really bitter. ”
This interview took place on
We’re at the Preston City Hall because the rooms in The Intercultural Centre are booked out. I begin chatting with a couple of Sri Lankan men [see Trouble and Desire] in that large hall with high ceilings and polished wooden floors. Arash and Mohammed are seated a distance away from us, talking amongst themselves, looking concerned. I ask them to come closer, try to engage them in a conversation about hobbies.
And what do you like to do Arash?
Er…sorry, I was thinking of something else. Because my mind is so busy.
I’m looking for some house and it’s making me…this process is really making me nervous, so…what was your question?
We were just discussing things we enjoy doing.
Actually most of the things for me is that…I can provide some situation myself to education…
Is there something you like doing, a hobby?
To find somewhere as a gym.
Did you use to go to the gym a lot?
Yeah, I trained in martial arts.
What kind of martial arts?
So did you get a belt for that?
Second of black.
One before black?
So you stopped when you left [Iran]?
Yes. Because…err, this is more than one year [in camps and community detention].
So what would you have done if you didn’t stop? Would you have kept doing karate?
You would’ve got a black belt?
I already have a black.
So after black belt there are many levels – at the first you get first Dan, second Dan, third, fourth, five – until ten. But there’s nobody in the world that has got Dan ten black belt. There was only one, he was master Oyama from Japan.
What’s Bruce Lee?
Bruce Lee was trained in the other kind of martial arts. Taekwondo.
So, they should know not to get into a fight with you. [I motion towards the rest. They laugh]
We’re all friends.
On the Screen
“I’m sure if you watch that movie, you’ll think: ‘How could someone be violence like this?’”
The conversation with the Sri Lankans has drifted to movies. I turn my attention to Mohammed who’s been quiet, probably because he doesn’t speak much English.
You have any favourite movies?
The English film?
Yes, and The Godfather.
You like very complicated movies. What about you, Arash?
Too many. It’s a…have you ever seen Serbian Film?
I’m taken aback. Arash’s named a movie I’ve read about but never wanted to see because of its violence and depravity.
Isn’t that a horror movie?
It’s not horror. It’s…it shows the problems of Serbia as a city. And it’s really…it’s, how can I say, totally different. It gives some kind of sense that it really, take you really deep thinking. But unfortunately I cannot explain about that…
Yeah, it’s difficult sometimes… [I’m still unsure of whether I’m thinking of the same movie as Arash] Is it called A Serbian Film?
Yes. The Serbian Film.
And it’s in English? What language is it in?
It has subtitles.
Why I try to talk about movies is because…
Actually it talks about porn industry. It’s a bitter movie…if you’re not sensitive.
I think I’ve heard of it. I’ve heard it’s very violent.
Very, very, violent. Take you deep thinking. It’s good for, you know, just one time, to watch this. You can see that in YouTube. A Serbian Film and also this one: From Tehran to Cairo. They’re both very different films.
Why do you like The Serbian Film?
There is some reality. Not reality – but the side of reality that is really bitter. It’s hard to accept it. I’m sure if you watch that movie, you’ll think: ‘How could someone be violence like this?’
We break for lunch. Katarina, with a lot of help from today’s participants, has cooked two types of bolognese. We serve ourselves from the large pots in the kitchen and eat at the tables in the hall.
After we finish eating Katarina packs the leftovers into the plastic containers and hands them out. She tells Arash and Mohammed it’s time to go. She’s driving them to a house inspection. There’s a nervous energy around as I wish them luck and they say their goodbyes and walk away.
“I was in suit – in French you’d say chic – I was so chic. They handcuffed me. Somebody came, with beard, very big guy. Check his watch and says, ‘After two hours I’m going to torture you.'”
The melancholic carpenter
“I had the baddest and the crazy life ever. No one can see it.”