To be and not to be

By Frank Scheffer

To be and not to be

In Frank Scheffer’s new film, the Dutch director follows his friend, the Iranian composer Nader Mashayekhi, a re-emigrant back to Tehran, while he struggles with the foundation of his Tehran Philharmonic Orchestra. Mashayekhi had previously brought the music of modern composers like John Cage and a performance of Bach’s St. John Passion to Iran, almost unbelievable projects in times of the official conservative and radical cultural policies of the country. The Iranian composer worked and lived for 28 years in Vienna and after an invitation by Iranian musicians he returned to his home country. Scheffer’s personal approach is not about politics in a direct way, and does not only concern the question of being an artist in Iran today. His film shows another image of life in this country, looking at young Iranian musicians and how they perceive and experience playing contemporary western music and what it means to them. Like in his widely acclaimed portraits about modern composers, Frank Scheffer succeeds by integrating stunning visuals with the rhythms of the compositions into a poetic and thoughtful film. Through the images of cinematographer Melle van Essen and the moving descriptions and performances by the musicians, a captivating, spiritual and melancholic journey emerges.

To be and not to be


Introductory film: Plaisir d’amour en Iran
By Agnès Varda

How to talk about love, while lifting the eyes towards the mosques or conversing about architecture in the hollow of the pillow. This short film is a variation on the uneasiness of love for Pomme et Ali Darius (in L’une chante l’autre pas). But it could also be the dream of any couple in love in a perfect place such as the grand mosque of the King in Ispahan, at the crossing of sacred and profane.

France, 1976, 6min.
French. Subtitles: English
Screenplay: Agnès Varda
Cinematography: Nurit Aviv, Charles Van Damme
Sound: Henri Morelle
Editing: Sabine Mamou

  To be and not to be
The Netherlands/Iran 2009, 54min. Video
Farsi. Subtitles: English

Screenplay: Michael Dreyer
Cinematography: Melle van Essen
Sound: Harold Jalving
Editing: Daan Wierda
Production: Pieter van Huystee for Pieter van Huystee Film in cooperation with VPRO, ZDF/3SAT

The Dutch filmmaker and documentary producer Frank Scheffer (1956) studied Industrial Design, Art and Film. He has directed many films about musicians and composers, including Gustav Mahler, Steve Reich, Frank Zappa and the Zoetrope Studio of Francis Ford Coppola. Through his collaboration with Marina Abramovic, he came into contact with John Cage, an important source of inspiration for Scheffer. The Holland Festival honoured Frank Scheffer in 2001 with a retrospective.