Friends House
Five Movies That Changed Me as a Filmmaker
ramin

Ramin Bahrani

Director

Ramin Bahrani is the director behind Man Push Cart, 99 Homes, and the new Netflix movie The White Tiger. Below are five movies that influenced how Ramin came to see himself as a filmmaker.


My parents are from Iran, and I was raised in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. My family wasn’t really a movie-watching family. They were more into books, and I grew up reading and painting. I didn’t start getting into movies until high school. Iranian cinema was just starting to become an international sensation, which I was quickly drawn to. I was deeply impacted by many films and filmmakers, Mean Streets and Where Is the Friend’s House?, or Aguirre, the Wrath of God and Vagabond. These were among many films that influenced me as a filmmaker.

I came to New York to study film theory at Columbia University as an undergraduate. There weren’t undergraduate filmmaking classes at that time so really I learned filmmaking from professors like Annette Insdorf and James Schamus, who were teaching film theory and film history. Hamid Dabashi, who was teaching Middle Eastern cinema and Iranian literature, ended up becoming, to this day, a mentor and a friend.

Then, I just made really terrible short films—I mean unwatchably bad, at least five of them. The fifth or sixth one wasn’t good, but I could see that it finally made sense at least. You could watch it without being confused.

I started like that and tried to get better. I was young enough to just be excited that I had picked up a 16-millimeter camera and spliced it together and projected it on a wall in my dorm room. That was already a lot. You’d have to sneak the equipment somehow, pretend to be a graduate student at Columbia to con your way into an editing room. That part of it was fun; I was reading Herzog interviews and he advised, “Do whatever it takes.”

1

Where Is The Friend's House

1987

Abbas Kiarostami left an indelible mark on me. His enigmatic simplicity and poetry inspired me.

WHERE TO WATCH
Where Is The Friend's House
1987
87 Mins
A schoolboy (Babek Ahmed Poor) looks for a classmate's home.


2

Taxi Driver

1976

WHERE TO WATCH

Martin Scorsese’s personal cinema was a guide to me as an Iranian-American. I felt if one day I could combine Kiarostami with Scorsese, it might be the type of cinema I would make.

WHERE TO WATCH
Taxi Driver
1976
113 Mins | R
A disturbed New York cabby (Robert De Niro) befriends a teen hooker (Jodie Foster).


3

Aguirre: The Wrath of God

1972

WHERE TO WATCH

I am always inspired by Werner Herzog’s singularity of vision, the boldness of his filmmaking, the depth of thought behind the artist. Also, the courage that an outsider can make a film by hook or by crook.

WHERE TO WATCH
Aguirre: The Wrath of God
1972
94 Mins | PG
A madman (Klaus Kinski) leads a raft party from Pizarro's Amazon expedition.


4

Vagabond

1985

One of the greatest portraits put on celluloid. I am in awe of Agnès Varda’s endlessly inventive and playful ways of telling stories.

WHERE TO WATCH
Vagabond
1985
105 Mins | 14A
A French teenager hitchhikes around, sleeps around and meets a cold, tragic fate.


5

Dekalog

1989

A monumental achievement. Mysterious, spiritual, psychological. Krzysztof Kieślowski’s sublime cinema is a well of humanity.

WHERE TO WATCH
Dekalog
1989
584 Mins
Ten stories offer a modern interpretation of one of the Ten Commandments.


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