UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE

Canada / 2024 / 89 min / Persian & French with English subtitles / Comedy

Somewhere between Tehran and Winnipeg. Negin and Nazgol find a sum of money frozen in the winter ice and try to get it out. Massoud leads a group of increasingly-confused tourists through the monuments and historic sites of Winnipeg. Matthew quits his job at the Québec government and embarks upon a mysterious journey to visit his mother. Space, time and personal identities crossfade, interweave and echo into a surreal comedy of disorientation.

Winner of the 2024 Cannes’ Directors Fortnight Audience Award, UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE is a clever, dry yet, at times, screwball comedy that creeps up on you.  

DIRECTOR: Rankin is a Canadian experimental filmmaker. He is most noted for his feature debut, The Twentieth Century, which premiered in 2019 and was nominated for eight Canadian Screen Awards, winning three. He has also received accolades for his 2014 film Mynarski Death Plummet, shortlisted for Best Live Action Short Drama at the Canadian Screen Awards and a shortlisted nominee for Best Short at the Jutra Awards, and his 2017 film The Tesla World Light, which won the Best Animated Short at the Canadian Screen Awards and received an Honorable Mention at the Toronto Int’l Film Festival. 

Originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba, he studied history at McGill University and Université Laval.  He has also had occasional small acting roles in other directors’ films, most recently the 2022 films This House (Cette maison) and Before I Change My Mind.

DIRECTOR STATEMENT: When I was 21, I went to Iran. I was inspired by the great Iranian masters, and I had this very naive idea that I could go there and study cinema. I stayed for three months, and it didn’t work out at all. There were a few film schools I tried to connect with. In some cases, I didn’t connect at all, and in some cases, it was just not possible [for me to study there]. 

Something I really noticed when I went to Tehran was that the buildings there actually reminded me very much of the buildings that surrounded me when I was growing up in Winnipeg. There are a lot of beige structures. In Winnipeg, they’re kind of special because they take the light in a really interesting way in the winter. It’s a very bleak, wintery, snowy city, and the winter light hits these beige structures and they become these beautiful luminescent orbs. And one thing that I really love about a lot of the films that this film is referencing is the seeking of the divine within the banal. So, this was something we were after with the filming of these structures. How could we make these otherwise very bland, very ordinary buildings take on some poetry? We wanted to film these beige structures the way Terrence Malick films at sunset.

Contact: alexandra@oscilloscope.net

CREDITS

DIRECTOR(S): Matthew Rankin
SCREENWRITER(S): Ila Firouzabadi, Pirouz Nemati, Matthew Rankin
PRODUCER(S): Sylvain Corbeil
CAST: Rojina Esmaeili, Danielle Fichaud, Sobhan Javadi, Pirouz Nemati, Nima Pourtolami, Matthew Rankin, Mani Soleymanlou, Saba Vahedyousefi

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