Profile: Ramin Bahrani
- Tom Dawson
- 16 October 2009
Name Ramin Bahrani
Born 20 March 1975, Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Background The son of Iranian immigrants to America, Bahrani grew up in North Carolina and studied film at Columbia University in New York, where he made several short films. His low-budget debut feature, Man Push Cart, about a Pakistani street vendor in Manhattan, premiered at Cannes in 2005. His next film Chop Shop again used non-professional actors and was shot entirely on location in New York. Focusing on a 12-year-old Latino street orphan in Queens, it played at the Venice film festival in 2007.
What’s he up to now? The latest film of Bahrani’s to be released in Britain is Goodbye Solo. Set in his hometown of Winston-Salem, it explores the fragile friendship between a Senegalese taxi-driver Solo (Souleymane Sy Savane) and an elderly white Southern passenger, William (former Elvis bodyguard Red West), who plans to take his own life. Bahrani himself is currently researching a film about the American West in the 1860s, and is also hoping to adapt his friend Aravind Adiga’s novel The White Tiger.
On casting Red West ‘I wanted a real Southerner for the role of William. Red sent a tape of himself doing the first scene. I didn’t know who he was. I watched it for about three seconds, and I realised this was William. He looked, sounded, and talked like the guy I had been writing about. I never called him Red: from day one I called him William.’
On the changing South ‘Winston-Salem is completely different from when I grew up there. Now you have Africans, South Asians and East Asians, Middle Easterners, and South Americans. The character of William is more of an outsider in his own town than Solo.’
On The Godfather ‘If The Godfather was made today, it would be a successful US indie film. The style of filmmaking in it is not far off what I do. There are very few point-of-view shots. It’s 100% observational. The camera doesn’t move around a lot and there are no tricks in the storytelling.’
Interesting fact Bahrani’s favourite novel is Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment.
Goodbye Solo is at Filmhouse, Edinburgh from Fri 30 Oct–Thu 5 Nov.