Directors Notes first caught wind of Yegane Moghaddam’s impressively constructed animated short Our Uniform back at Annecy last year. Amongst a plethora of compelling shorts, Moghaddam’s film stood out to us due to its visual tactility and thematic political relevance. Its story follows a young Iranian woman who reveals anecdotes surrounding her experiences at school and the gendered effects of wearing a mandatory hijab. These anecdotes are brought to life via a combination of stop motion of the school uniform and overlayed 2D animation that is rendered upon its surface. It’s such a compelling piece of filmmaking and it was of no surprise to us when it became nominated for an Oscar. With the Academy Awards ceremony now just around the corner, DN joins Moghaddam for a discussion on her film below, talking over its beginnings as a series of real-life schoolgirl stories, her surprise at its international success, and the ambitions of a potential sequel.

I read that you based the stories shared in Our Uniform on real anecdotes, how did you hear about those stories? Did any come from you? And at what point did you decide to turn them into a short animated film?

Yes, the film is based on real anecdotes shared by almost every Iranian girl. At the beginning, it was supposed to be an animated documentary. I interviewed around 30 to 40 secondary school students and asked them about their uniforms. I asked if they liked the color? If they felt comfortable inside it? If this uniform was a real person, what would it look like? What would be her favorite song? Is this uniform a happy girl or an unhappy girl?

A film like this doesn’t have a real or reliable pre-production because many things can change during the main production.

Their answers astonished me! Some of them smart, some of them very deep, some truly hilarious. The intention was to play the recorded voices in the background and animate the uniform based on the anecdotes. But then the school administrators didn’t allow me to use these voices and somehow kicked me out of that school when they learned about the topic of my film. So, I changed the script and decided to make the film the way it is right now.

What does pre-production on a film like this look like? Are you storyboarding every frame and/or creating an animatic?

I didn’t create any animatic but I had some simple storyboards drawn on paper. The film doesn’t have real cinematography. It’s basically a sequence of still images with a little movement. I couldn’t move the camera inside a world that is made out of fabric, so everything is happening on a flat surface. To answer your question, a film like this doesn’t have a real or reliable pre-production because many things can change during the main production. That’s why I didn’t spend too much time on planning for the film.

Could you take us through how you animated the film? Are there elements of stop motion in there or is it all hand drawn over live action footage?

There’s no live action footage in the film. It’s 2D animation composited on a stop motion layer. The stop motion part was really easy. I didn’t even use any software for that. Just took the pictures one by one with a simple camera and imported them inside my film. Then I began drawing 2D animation on each frame.

How long, from initially developing the short through to the final edit, have you been working on Our Uniform?

I began the project around late September 2022 and finished it in February 2023. So it took me something like five months.

And how long have you been an animator? What drew you to animation as an artistic medium?

It’s been around six years since I graduated from the Art University of Tehran where I studied animation. During these six years, I’ve worked both as an animator and an illustrator. I’ve always wanted to be a storyteller and animation allowed me to tell a story in a million different ways.

The only thing that never crossed my mind was an Oscar nomination. For me, it was only a fun and amateur experiment.

What does it mean to you to have the film recognised at the Oscars?

When I was making this teeny tiny film in the corner of my room, the only thing that never crossed my mind was an Oscar nomination. For me, it was only a fun and amateur experiment. Nothing serious really! But it seems like the world took it much more seriously than I did.

Both Our Uniform and On the Cover, your previous short, engage with real-world issues, is that something we will continue to see in your filmmaking?

Yes! On the Cover which was my graduation film, is about the environmental crisis. The environment has always been my true concern. Before being an artist, or a filmmaker, I call myself an environmentalist. I see a deep analogy between the human state and our planet’s state. The current state of the earth, being suffocated by all kinds of pollution, is somehow reflecting the state of human beings and our minds. In my next films, I’ll try to talk about this interconnection and how I see it.

So what does the future look like for you at present?

The next project is a sequel to Our Uniform but it has everything that was missing in the first film. A very interesting story, much more cinematography and crazy camerawork! It is however as low-budgeted as the first film because being simple and low-budgeted is part of the DNA of this animation series I’m doing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *