Anahita Ghazvinizadeh’s short film Needle, which won the 2013 Cinefondation prize at Cannes, premieres today on the Criterion Channel as part of our weekly Short + Feature. I first met Anahita through programming the short at the Chicago International Film Festival, and we talked about her passion for the work of Robert Bresson and how her research into the French master’s methods directly informed her filmmaking. Anahita grew up in Iran, where she studied under another all-time great, Abbas Kiarostami. And this is her first film made in the U.S. and in English.
When I thought of showing Needle on the channel, I of course immediately thought of Bresson, and specifically of his 1967 Mouchette. Needle follows Lily, an adolescent girl whose quest to get her ears pierced is stalled by her parents’ constant fighting. The tale of Mouchette is more explicitly one of cruelty and denigration, but both stories are told through the eyes of young girls who must come to terms with the harshness of the world around them.
In Anahita’s short introduction to the double bill, she discusses her love of Bresson and how she was influenced by his writings and “the way he talks about spontaneity and naturalism, but at the same time the construct of the film.” She played particularly close attention to his notes on “details of the body” and incorporated what she learned in the way she directed and shot Needle, which feels both naturalistic and strikingly heightened at the same time. Listen to what she has to say in the below video: