Society served as a co-producer of the film, taking a formal first step toward development and production of original feature films and series, a long held ambition. The decision to premiere the film at SIFF was personal for both the director and Society, opting to debut the film in the city that is its subject, and amongst the community that came together to make it. Next steps for the film will be the Fall festival circuit as the producers work to negotiate both domestic and international distribution.
IN CONVERSATION: ZIA MOHAJERJASBI
KNOW YOUR PLACE is a slice-of-life drama set in present-day Seattle, WA. Robel Haile, an Eritrean- American boy of 15, embarks on an errand to deliver a huge and heavy suitcase across town destined for a sick family member in his parents’ homeland. He enlists the help of his best friend Fahmi, when an unexpected turn transmutes his simple task into an odyssey across the city of Seattle; navigating directions to make his delivery on time, along with the challenges of familial responsibility, self identification, and dislocation amid the ongoing redevelopment and economic displacement of the only community he’s ever known as home.
SOCIETY: You’ve described this film as both a love letter and a lament for the city that raised you. How so?
ZIA: This film is a personal attempt to capture the beauty of the place that raised me, in a moment of great transition. The dissolution of community, economic displacement, redevelopment of legacy neighborhoods have made the parts of the city I love most almost unrecognizable. This film is about capturing some sense of what Seattle is, what it has been, and what it is becoming. It’s a film about home.
SOCIETY: Why was it so important to you to use first time actors from the actual communities depicted in the film?
ZIA: As a filmmaker, I am most interested in a methodology that embraces storytelling as a universal human trait and ‘talent’ as a decentralized and ubiquitous human resource. As tools to filmmakers become more available, the localization of cinema is vital – adding nuance, specificity, potency and authenticity to stories represented in film. I always felt in my gut that casting from the community would lead to a more truthful portrayal, and I’m glad I trusted that instinct.
SOCIETY: What did it mean to you to attend the sold out screenings in Seattle and win both the jury and audience awards?
ZIA: It meant everything. No matter how hard you think the task of completing a feature film may be, there’s no way to truly comprehend it until you go through it. This film almost broke me on several occasions, and looking back now I can’t really see doing it any other way. That’s just how hard it is to do this, and to see an audience responding to the film and engaging with it was a catharsis I’d never experienced before.
SOCIETY: What are your goals for distribution of the film? Where can people next see it?
ZIA: We’re actively working on all of this. The timing of SIFF is interesting, being near the tail end of the circuit of the most largely attended festivals – so now we wait a bit for the fall run. In the meantime, conversations regarding domestic distribution are ongoing with nothing set just yet. Limited theatrical, even just a few cities, is intended as part of that picture. I’m hopeful that the communities this film speaks to will get the opportunity to see it together, on the big screen.