IDFA 2022: All You See
IDFA Luminous and Opening Film
“I don’t know why but we are obsessed with ethnicity here.” With her IDFA opener, director Niki Padidar hopes to make Dutch audiences aware of the way they look at newcomers, and how their preconceptions can affect others often without them even realising it. She explains more to SEE NL’s Geoffrey MacNab.
All You See by Niki Padidar
When Niki Padidar arrived aged seven in the Netherlands, she was utterly dismayed. Padidar had lived a comfortable life in her own “childhood bubble” in Iran and now here she was, being plunged into a grim new world that was cold, grey and very unfriendly.
This week’s Padidar’s documentary All You See, produced by mint film office, will have its world premiere as the opening film of IDFA in the Carré theatre in Amsterdam. Dutch audiences may find some of what she shows uncomfortable to watch. Her protagonists are immigrants living in The Netherlands whose experiences are very similar to what she endured when she and her family first arrived in the country. We meet Khadija, a highly educated woman from Somalia who has lived in the Netherlands for many years, who describes how she is still treated as if she is an alien from a distant planet. Sophia, a lovable kid, admits she can find next to nothing to like about her new homeland.
Padidar points out that she had it lucky. She arrived as a child and so was far more easily able to integrate than her parents. “The older you are, the more difficult it is,” the director suggests. “Seven is the perfect age to come because I started school all over. You get to start from scratch and start to grow into everything.”
For the first five years, Padidar’s family didn’t have proper legal papers. “My parents’ lives stopped for five years. During those years, you are not allowed to study or to work or to do anything. [But] for me, I was allowed to go to school and do everything I was supposed to do - and so that is a really big difference.”
The director spent some time living in New York (when she was a student at the New School University in New York). “In those months that I lived there, I didn’t feel like a foreigner at all,” she says of her time in the city, and how different it was to being in Amsterdam. “Maybe that was because everybody is sort of a foreigner. Maybe they’re not fixated with that as much. If there was a Black girl in our dorm and someone wanted to describe her, they’d say ‘oh, the tall girl with the pink blouse and the ponytail.’ Here [in the Netherlands], we would say the Black girl as the first characteristic. I don’t know why but we are obsessed with ethnicity here.”
Padidar hopes her film will make Dutch audiences aware of the way they look at newcomers and how their preconceptions can affect others often without them even realising it.
“I hope it [the film] will make them a little bit aware. What I say in the film is that the most common reaction when you tell people [about their behaviour] is that either they deny it or they say something to diminish it,” she suggests. “I am also curious to see if people think this is about them or if they will think this is about someone else.”
The art and media sector is “a bit different” but Padidar has also encountered prejudice in this world too. “The people in arts and media [also] tend to think that it [prejudice] doesn’t happen there but only in other places. That is even harder to get through.”
Padidar’s 2015 short film Ninnoc (about the struggles of a bright young girl at school) won Best Youth Documentary at IDFA. Since then, the festival has kept a close eye on her.
All You See has music from Fin Greenall, the English singer-songwriter known as Fink, and who has worked with everybody from Amy Winehouse to Professor Green. “I really loved his music,” Padidar explains how she recruited him, never really imagining he would say yes. Nevertheless she messaged him, saying she was a filmmaker and sent a link of Ninnoc. To her delight liked it and agreed to come on board. “That was like a dream, that he was willing to work with me. When I told him about my new film and my history I found out his wife was from Iran too and that she has similar stories - so that was a really weird coincidence.”
Padidar, an author and artist as well as a filmmaker, has recently re-written her best-selling sex education book ‘Doctor Corrie,’ which is shortly to be published in a second edition, but she doesn’t have other films on the immediate horizon. “These [past] couple of months, I didn’t accept any other projects because I just wanted to finish this one. It is such a big project, and I am kind of tired…”she ends.
All You See is produced by mint film office. It is supported by the Netherlands Film Fund. It opens IDFA 2022 on November 9.