Bahman Ghobadi discusses new drama Rhino Season starring Monica Bellucci and Behrouz Vossoughi; as well as religion-themed anthology film Words With Gods.

Bahman Ghobadi’s latest film Rhino Season was a surprise omission from this year’s Cannes programme. Venice could now serve as the launch pad for the acclaimed director’s drama about a couple who are unjustly incarcerated during Iran’s Islamic Revolution.

Bellucci plays Minah, the wife of an incarcerated poet Sahel (Behrouz Vossoughi), who emigrates to Istanbul with her two children after serving a ten-year jail sentence and believing her husband to be dead. Yilmaz Erdogan (Once Upon a Time in Anatolia) plays the couple’s nemesis.

Multi-hyphenate Ghobadi says his latest work is not strictly a political film: “This film is very different to my previous works. It is a poetic film about an artist whose life was interrupted for thirty years when a person he knew used the political situation at the time to throw him and his wife in prison out of  a deeply-seeded obsession and personal vendetta.”

Ghobadi drew inspiration for Rhino Season from the real life events surrounding a Kurdish poet and family friend who disappeared for thirty years. Presumed dead by his friends and relatives, the man was in fact incarcerated in an Iranian prison.

No longer able to make films in Iran, Ghobadi shot his latest picture in Turkey, producing with BKM Film. Ghobadi renews his collaboration with No One Knows About Persian Cats [Un Certain Regard Special Jury Prize winner in 2009] DoP Touraj Aslani.

Shooting outside Iran has proven a liberating experience for the Kurdish Iranian director: “After my last film in Iran, No One Knows About Persian Cats, and after having to leave the country, I became another person. I feel like I was born again, I was given a new life. I am three years old now and live in a free world.”

Ghobadi is also in the final stages of post-production on religion-themed anthology film Words with Gods: “My section is about Islam,” he says. “It was a very special experience for me and I felt honoured to have been approached for this project.”

Other directors on the project include Emir Kusturica, Jose Padilha, Warwick Thornton, Mira Nair, Hideo Nakata and Guillermo Arriaga.

Ghobadi says he is now tying up two projects in Turkey and has another two projects in development in New York. He is also working on a book.