Mazi Khalighi

Visions of the Past

By Imma Morcinelli

While he radiates the blasé confidence of someone who has been in the business for years, Mazi Khalighi is really only a toddler in the family of filmmaking. But despite his lack of years and experience in the industry, this budding screenwriter and director could teach his elders a thing or two about story time.

Mazi

The coverage Khalighi’s fledgling short film Foreign Soil has received at various film festivals proves his place among film veterans. His film has been screened at multiple film festivals, including the 2007 Canadian ReelWorld Festival, the 2007 Newport Beach Film Festival, the Montreal Student Film Festival and the 2007 Diaspora Film Festival. Foreign Soil was also short-listed in the top 50 of CBC’s Digital Diversity competition and made its television debut on Movieola, a short film channel.

Born in Shiraz, Iran in 1983, Khalighi’s early childhood was flooded with the sounds and sights of war. Though the Iran-Iraq war would end while he was still a child, his early memories are spotted with the piercing sound of the city alarm and the blinding flash from the rockets being fired around his family’s doorstep.

“I remember constantly having to dash for the basement the next time the alarm came on,” recalls Khalighi. “And repairing broken windows from the blasts became a weekly routine. One night in particular, I remember clinging onto my mother’s neck, not speaking a word or being able to finish a complete sentence without stuttering for three more years after that.”

Not one to let the attrocities of war get to him, Khalighi adopted a rather industrious way to channel and release his recollections from life in Iran. When his mother relocated his family to Mississauga, Ont., Khalighi, then four years old, eventually transformed his stutter into an unrestrained ability to tell a story.

“I always focused on the written word to express myself,” Khalighi says. “It was amazing to me how something that I thought of and wrote on paper had the power to change someone’s mind-frame, be it positive or negative.” To his older brother, Reza Khalighi, it is character development that interests the young filmmaker.

“Things that provoked his imagination always interested him the most,” says Reza Khalighi. “He was always interested in creating characters.” Though his interest and talent in the arts was apparent, it wasn’t until Khalighi watched the film
The Usual Suspects (directed by Brian Singer) that he decided film was his providence.

“After seeing that film, I decided that I needed to make people feel the way that film had just made me feel,” Khalighi says. “When executed correctly by a director, a film can have the power to change people to make them see or understand things in the span of two hours that would otherwise take years to figure out.”

Mazi

Running on instinct, Khalighi went on to study film and television production at Humber College Institute of Technology & Advanced Learning and shortly after wrote and directed Foreign Soil.

“I made the decision to just write what I knew,” says Khalighi. “So naturally I pulled from the experiences of myself and my family. Foreign Soil is a completely fictional film but is based on the true story of my family’s experiences the first few years we arrived in Canada.”

Jennifer Chen, general manager at Ouat Media, a short film and media distributor, came across the film and picked it up for distribution. She describes Foreign Soil as having a relevant subject matter that’s commercial and pertinent in any country.

“The production value and the acting is unbelievable,” says Chen. “It’s a movie you could enjoy. And the story, which is a little bit different, is a pretty universal story, and we like it for that.”

“Mazi has his sights set on the top and will be relentless getting there,” says his friend, Devon Burns. “He’s a strong-willed and perseverant filmmaker, with a strong sense of story telling and cinematic art. He will, no doubt, go far in this business and could be the one to break the clenches on the Canadian film industry held by a handful of people.”

Ouat Media General Manager, Jennifer Chen, also says Khalighi has a bright future in the film industry.
“Based on the film that we’ve seen, you would imagine he would definitely move to longer dramatic pieces,” she says. “And if this is one of his earlier films, you can tell he’s really grasped storytelling and we wish the best for him and would love to work with him again.”

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