Exhibitionists·In Residence

It's a haunting NFB short about facing fear and uncertainty. Watch 'Deyzangeroo'

Toronto-based filmmaker Ehsan Gharib is this week's Exhibitionist in Residence.

Toronto-based filmmaker Ehsan Gharib is this week's Exhibitionist in Residence

Scene from "Deyzangeroo," a film by Ehsan Gharib. (Courtesy of the NFB)

On this week's episode of CBC Arts: Exhibitionists, we'll be airing clips from "Deyzangeroo," an award-winning NFB short that you can stream in full on CBC Gem. First released in 2017, the film is ultimately about facing the unknown. Maybe that means confronting fear and darkness — or pressing on when life presents some enormous challenge (like making an experimental film, for example).

"Deyzangeroo" is Ehsan Gharib's first piece for the NFB, and the Toronto-based artist named it after a tradition that originates in Bushehr, a port city on the Persian Gulf. Back in ancient times, a lunar eclipse — like this month's "super wolf blood moon" — would have been blamed on meddling demons. So on eclipse nights, the people would gather to scare the evil spirits away, dancing and drumming and singing until the monsters gave the moon back.

By the '90s, when Gharib was growing up in central Iran, the tradition was still around. And as people from the Bushehr region were displaced by the Iran-Iraq War, arriving in his hometown of Arak, they brought it with them.

Says Gharib: "Wherever you were during the time of those ceremonies, you could hear the bass from the ground. You could feel it. Just like a train was passing by, you could feel it."

That was the whole idea of making 'Deyzangeroo': to face the unknown.- Ehsan Gharib, filmmaker

In his short film, we never see what the ceremony looks like, but we get an idea of that feeling he's talking about. The pulsing soundtrack was composed by jazz musician Habib Meftah Bouchehri. (Based in Paris, but born in Bushehr, he released an album in the mid-2000s that's also called Dey Zangeroo.) According to Gharib, that record reminded him of the tradition he witnessed as a kid, and it's ultimately what inspired the film.

As for the visuals, they're largely abstract. Many of the scenes were shot using trick-photography mirrors, conjuring the illusion of inky black infinite space. And the frames are hand-painted. It's a technique that requires improvisation, he explains. "It was almost like letting all your imagination go," he says. "Everything formed right under the camera."

"And that was something I came to peace with during the making of 'Deyzangeroo' — the not knowing and continuing. That was the whole idea of making 'Deyzangeroo': to face the unknown. To do what our ancestors did, and continue going."

"Everything we see in the film is kind of an abstraction," he says. "I basically stripped this ritual, this phenomenon, from everything other than the conflict at the core of it. There is light and darkness; there are people facing something menacing."

"This desire to gather the group and face something — that was the most interesting thing to me about that ritual.

Watch "Deyzangeroo" on CBC Gem.

Stream CBC Arts: Exhibitionists or catch it on CBC Television, Friday nights at 11:30 p.m. (midnight NT) and Sundays at 3:30 p.m. (4 NT).