Romanticizing your life can be a difficult task, but Sayna Fardaraghi does it with copious amounts of passion and talent - teaching us that the abstract concept of living in all its guts and glory can be captured beautifully and in a way that is uniquely hers.
Fardaraghi is a 20-something London and Brighton based Persian self-taught art director and filmmaker. She has won the Intel & Movidiam Award for Best Director and has been interviewed by the BFI SCENE Program, a weekly interview program that features various filmmakers on their Instagram page. She has amassed over 8 million views across different social media platforms, including Twitter, YouTube, Vimeo and Instagram.
Her aim is to bring people together by exploring a feeling that we all relate to - whether it be nostalgia or longing. There is a shared sense of understanding and relatability as her inspiration comes from personal experiences and conversations she has had with the people around her.
Her cinematography is recognizable and distinct, thus setting her apart from others. Though the themes covered in her films are simple in nature, L’Observateur (2019), Waiting (2020), and Limerence (2021) are created in ways that are captivating.
L’Observateur is a short film released in May 2019. It follows the main character, Eden, who uses the binoculars she received on her 18th birthday as a tool to help her people-watch. The film has French narration with English subtitles.
Fardaraghi is heavily inspired by Wes Anderson, an American filmmaker known for his recognizable style: narrative style and having symmetry in each frame. L’Observateur (2019) pays homage to Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, a story that follows two romantic 12-year-olds who run away together.
She emulates the same themes of imagination and childhood in her first short through a woman’s eyes. Literally. Throughout the film, a point of view shot is taken through Eden’s binoculars. Doing so makes it easy for audience members to experience her point of view as she looks at trees, dogs, food and of course, people. In a literal sense, it brings us closer to her as we see her inner musings.
Fardaraghi romanticizes the mundane act of observing, which unrecognizably plays a huge role in how we learn. It’s what makes us human. Albert Bandura, a Canadian-American psychologist came up with the social cognitive theory, which states that we learn behaviours through observing. We decide to imitate the actions of others based on the outcome.
If we see others getting praised for something they’ve done, we are more likely to imitate the action that deserved the good attention. However, if others have done something that they were later reprimanded for, we learn to not carry out those actions.
She does a good job at making you reminisce about her work with the tool of a camera. She has stated in an interview with Filmdaze that:
“[she is] quite an observant person and [loves] to notice the little things in other people, the simple details and quirks that make us different. Whether it’s the way we sit, our facial expressions, what book we like to read or what music we listen to.”
A quote in the film that encapsulates this is, “because she felt that those things in life were important and inspiring.”
It is the straightforwardness of the statement that brings out her genuine and unbridled passion for showing humans in their purest form. It is definitely something that she deserves all the flowers for, especially since she did not have any resources when making this movie.
According to her interview with Scratch Cinema, this passion project was done in three weeks with the help of a few of her friends. She believes that it added charm - something she delivered tenfold.
Creating this film taught her perseverance. Further, it gave her a chance to portray a woman as a central figure, something she believes is extremely important and is clear in her films.
Her next short, titled Waiting was released in April 2020 and was the winner of HP Breakthrough Awards. It is a lot more experimental in comparison to L’Observateur (2019), which focused on narrative. She describes it as a film that is “based on the theme of waiting and the payoff that comes afterwards.”
It is a collage of the various events in the characters’ lives and how nature finds a way to reward us with growth at the end of the day.
Some of the more mundane examples in the film include waiting for a text back or for laundry to finish. Similar to L’Observateur, Fardaraghi has a talent for illustrating minuscule day to day things in a thought-provoking way as the film shows how important taking things slow can be sometimes.
Throughout the film, there are different motifs used to remind us that the wait is always worth it for our self-growth. One of them is the ladybug, representing good fortune and prosperity. It acts as the marker for the change in each of the characters’ lives in the film.
The second motif is a cocoon that later becomes a butterfly, signifying growth and transformation. Also, the life of a butterfly reminds us that life is short and to not get caught up in busy schedules.
Ironically, towards the end of the film, the reflection of the flowers are seen on the Apple logo on the back of the character’s iPhone. This minuscule detail acts as a commentary on how technology has been a catalyst for this collective headspace we are in - feeling guilty to take rest - further fueled by internal or external unrealistic expectations.
The film reminds us of the importance of taking things slow and doing little to nothing sometimes as it is beneficial for our mental health.
She mentioned to Offcolour Magazine that there is no morality in productivity and it does not define our self-worth. During this time of the pandemic, our futures have been difficult to plan and so this film came at just the right time to remind us that all good things take time, effectively symbolized with the blooming of the plants that surround each character.
Limerence, released in May 2021, is a micro-short film about “unsent love letters and the feeling of limerence”, according to Fardaraghi herself. Similar to Waiting, it follows different characters but with a poetic narration throughout. Longing is a feeling that transcends our individual experiences, illustrated through the diversity of characters narrating different parts.
In just a little over two minutes, she was able to invoke memories of unrequited love that is a growing pain we’ve all felt at one point or another. Limerence refers to fantasies or desires we have with someone for who we have formed romantic feelings. A line that encapsulates this is:
“The only conversations that I seem to be having are with the clock in front of me ticking away the hours as I attempt to form a sentence good enough to say to you”.
The overthinking that tends to occur as we approach someone we are slowly developing feelings for are illustrated elegantly through the cinematography and direction (i.e. the empty cup of tea in the still below).
Roses are a motif that is continuously seen in the film, symbolizing love and romance, fitting for the film. Red rose petals are seen falling out of one character’s jumper, providing a visual metaphor as if all the love she has for a person is spilling away from every inch of her body as the thought of them is stuck to her, engulfing her entirely.
Further, at the end of the film, the love letter that was being typed throughout the film is burned with a bouquet of pink flowers which stand for admiration and the purity of love. The burning of this shows how one is ready to move on.
This is not the first time we’ve seen Fardaraghi’s affinity for love letters. Her YouTube video, letters from greece, from 2019 shows how romanticizing an event or location is a huge part of her identity. Thus, showing us how authentic her work is considering her filmography is simply put, an extension of this overall concept and subsequently, herself.
Sayna Fardaraghi’s speciality in exploring the concept of nostalgia is done incredibly well through short films. Her ability to take nuanced and abstract concepts and portray them in an art that is so singularly hers is admirable.
Her future is so bright as the trajectory of her growth as a filmmaker is only going to go up.
Follow Sayna Fardaraghi on IG and Vimeo. All photos were provided by her directly, or taken from the short films.