Canadian producer uses film projects to inspire change

Parvis Yazdani, a Persian-born Canadian living in Saskatchewan, may be a dentist by day, but after hours he’s busy communicating with his partners around the globe on more far-reaching projects. Since the 2002 founding of his Canadian-based independent production house, Xerxes Indie Films (XIF), Mr. Yazdani has been using film to convey untold stories, bring people together, and inspire social change.

“The work is very collaborative”, said Mr. Yazdani emphasizing XIF’s conscious efforts to establish close relationships with co-producers in developing countries and aboriginal artists.

Xerxes has successfully helped produce three films thus far, with at least two more film projects in the wings. The Xerxes film Alma Mater, co-produced in Uruguay with Austero Producciones, won the Premio Casa de America for Films in Progress at the 2004 San Sebastian Film Festival. And one of Mr. Yazdani’s latest projects, “Cochochi”, a film set in rural Mexico, was recently selected for both the Venice and Rio film festivals and won the 2007 Discovery award at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Why get involved with film in the first place? “Because,” said Mr. Yazdani, “there are few better avenues for communicating such big stories and messages in so short a space and time than with film.” One the central artistic goals of XIF, as mentioned on their website, is “to emphasize issues and stories not commonly portrayed in North American and other western media.”

When interviewed, Mr. Yazdani pointed out that the typical ‘Hollywood style’ of movie-making often involves more money but less ideas, whereas “Xerxes tries to balance fund and ideas,” said Yazdani, expressing his ongoing effort to make XIF financially sustainable while keeping the themes of the films it produces “deep”.

Mr. Yazdani said that although being a Bahá’í is not the reason why he’s involved with film, the principles of the Faith do influence which films Xerxes chooses to produce and the way they get made.

Xerxes isn’t just concerned with producing films, but also the social and economic development of their partners in other countries. Mr. Yazdani’s goal is not simply to provide a unique venue for feature films, but also to nurture the talents of budding filmmakers and help cultivate the film infrastructure in remote localities.

“We want to empower people to continue telling their own stories,” said Yazdani regarding XIF’s focus on international and aboriginal perspectives.

Similarly, while Xerxes’s films don’t feature any content that is explicitly Bahá’í, they usually portray themes such as activism, social responsibility, the search for meaning or identity, and transformation and, therefore, consciously explore territory that many spiritually and religious-minded people care about today, what Mr. Yazdani calls, “the practical application of spiritual principles.”

Ultimately though, Xerxes is not interested in “hitting audiences over the head with a message,” said Yazdani, but rather, “posing questions, suggesting solutions, and most of all, helping people to see the world in a different way.”

To read more about Xerxes Indie Films, and to view their past and current film projects, please visit: http://www.xerxesfilms.com/window.html