A few silent questions echo through Amir Motlagh’s new video, “what do you know of water’s worth while standing on the banks of the euphrates.” The lengthy title comes courtesy of its subject, Tehran-born poet Mahsa Hosseini, a California resident whose poem of the same name (with a title originally presented in Farsi) powers the 14-minute short film, interspersed with interviews and footage of the writer herself.
A running theme throughout, which finds purchase in the ending, is this idea of materialism as manifest through immigrant dreams. Often, materialism is considered in a negative light by creatives, calling out the impermanence of the things we own. However, Hosseini envisions the satisfaction and agency provided by owning land, like her father owned land in Iran, and appreciating and regularly “reading” that land and its wildlife.
“I believe materialism is mostly about social proof and validation, which might be naturally amplified from the displacement that immigrant Americans have experienced,” Motlagh opines. “A way of trying to ‘prove themselves,’ which is significant on a social level, as cultures who do that are strongly incentivized and thus, quickly ascend.
“Though on a personal level, materialism is often fleeting & leads to more internal noise, not less…In this particular case, land in Joshua Tree (very remote/ off grid) is more about externally leaving materialism behind, in search of something else entirely.”
Motlagh is a musician, though he considers filmmaking his “main drive,” as he puts it. With this new video, his accompanying soundtrack includes portions of his latest single under MIRS, “Moonlighting Mission Man,” in addition to incidental composition created for the short.
Aside from questions of materialism and cultural displacement, and ruminative conversations on creativity (and lamb hearts), “what do you know…” also includes conversational exchanges about action, about doing the thing. Hosseini hopes to have her first book completed by December, and urges others to be proactive in their dream-fulfillment.
Overall, the short is quite meandering, but also evocative of a close acquaintance with its subject. Motlagh sees more of these kinds of multimedia collaborations in his future as well.
To find out more about Amir Motlagh and links to his body of work, check out his website here.
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