December 4th-14th 2020

“The very classification “amateur” has an apologetic ring. But the very word  – from the Latin amator, “lover” – means one who does something for the love of the thing” – Maya Deren

Amator is a collaborative and open-ended moving image and text project by mother and daughter Azita Chegini and Selina Ershadi.

When plans to accompany her mother on a recent trip to Iran to make the film fell through, Selina asked Azita to take her handycam with her on her 3 week trip back home to record walking through the Alborz mountains that surround Tehran. What emerged from this seemingly simple task is a series of fragmented glimpses into Azita’s experience of grappling with what it means to be a cameraperson and what it means to document one’s own lived experience, questions intensified by a setting in which the boundary between the private and public is starkly defined.

After years of being the one in front of the camera’s lens, Azita is now the one looking through it, capturing what she sees. Her camera enacts a kind of flanerie that shifts between the interiors and exteriors of both places and bodies across space and time. Over the stream of images, Azita reads her own diaristic text that drifts in and out of the present and the past, moving between the act of recording what one sees and what one remembers.

Iranian oral storytelling has its own version of the phrase ‘once upon a time’. Persian stories often begin with the words ‘yeki bood, yeki nabood’ : ‘one was, one was not.’ It is a phrase that holds space for what has been carved away; a reminder of the untold that always shadows what is told. The ambiguous words question the notion of a singular truth. By including the fractured construction of Azita’s own story – its attempts, its ‘failures,’ its intent – the film strives for narrative multiplicity.

Amator circuitously continues on from Selina’s inter-textual film Hollywood Ave (2017) and its mirror text Notes for 3 Women. The work challenges mastery, singular authorship and resolution, instead embracing minor forms of storytelling that dwell in places of uncertainty and daydreams. It is a project that is slowly, intuitively and imperfectly pieced together by love.