Nagmeh Farzaneh’s 2016 student film, Scent of Geranium, is about the shock of confronting a foreign culture, and seeing your preconceptions challenged at every turn. An autobiographical account of Farzaneh’s earliest days in America, the obvious assumption is that the film would focus on her adjustments to her new home, and to a culture that—in the American cultural imagination, at least—couldn’t be further from that of her home.

While there are moments of adjustment, though, Farzaneh focuses more of the film on the misunderstandings Americans have about her homeland. Iran has loomed large in American news and media for decades, mostly as an “evil” presence on the international stage. But its presence has been a two-dimensional one, and seeing Farzaneh’s shock as friends marvel at the fact that she can drive, or ask if they have apples (or maybe Apples) back home is a reminder of the gap between a vague awareness of a country and a genuine understanding. Farzaneh acknowledges Iran is “not the best place to come from these days,” but she still wanted to be a good ambassador for her country, a representative of everyday life in a Persian culture with a rich and complicated history.

Even if it was just Farzaneh’s narration, Scent of Geranium would be a compelling story. Fortunately, her artwork only adds to the experience. A blend of traditional and digital techniques, Farzaneh’s film mixes warm watercoloured backdrops with stark black-and-white characters and scenery, creating a versatile style that moves from light humour to nightmarish stress in a matter of moments—her depiction of a particularly stressful lunch line stands out as one of the films most evocative images.. Though it largely sticks to realism, Farzaneh isn’t afraid to let more emotionally suggestive imagery enter the frame, either.

An open and honest portrait of her immigration experience, Scent of Geranium is an impressive debut, with an impressive festival run to match. We were fortunate enough to show it at our 2017 GIRAF animation festival, and weren’t surprised to see it earn a Vimeo Staff Pick, either.

Scent of Geranium

dir: Nagmeh Farzaneh

syn: Immigration is a new chapter in one’s life, a chapter with unexpected events that can take one’s life down paths different from the one imagined. This film is an autobiographical account of the director’s experience with immigration.

Bonus: Have a look at the interview Farzaneh gave to Vimeo for its Staff Pick premiere

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