Mehdi Avaz

on his new film, While We Live

The Scandinavian Film Festival is rocking into Palace Cinemas, and one of the most exciting screen adventures is the incredibly acclaimed, wildly successful Danish film, While We Live. 


We sat down with it's debut director, Mehdi Avaz, to talk about the story, how it was financed, and what makes Scandinavian film so special. 


Jacob: So I guess the first one is if you could just tell us a little bit about your new film, While We Live?

Mehdi: While We Live is my debut film, it’s a story about a man coming back to his hometown for forgiveness. If I say more, though, I am going to kill the story and I don’t want to!

Jacob: OK! So it’s a bit of a surprise is it?

Mehdi: Yeah it is.

Jacob: I read online that it’s based on a tale from your childhood though?

Mehdi: Yeah, it is. I took the accident that happened to two of my friends as inspiration, and built the other characters and story around it. So the accident in the movie is like one-to-one, how it happened.

Jacob: Wow. And I read that it was written by your brothers?

Mehdi: Yeah, by my brothers.

Jacob: What was it like working with your siblings?

Mehdi: It’s good, because we were raised in the same house, so we were totally in sync about what kind of feelings we wanted to put in the film. But at the same time it is very hard because there is so many feelings and we are about to close our film company ten times a day, but it’s love, it’s not hate. It’s crazy working with your own family, but at the same time it’s like the easiest thing in the world.

Jacob: You said it was your first feature; how did you find it different to your previous commercial work, and indeed your earlier stills photography work?

Mehdi: When I was taking photos back in the day, the main thing for me was to tell a story in a photo. And I love working with people; like, working with people is the best thing. So I thought ‘how do I combine these things?’.


I wanted to tell a story with beautiful pictures so I made my first feature; and in the process, I found out that I am good at working with people. It’s very difficult and, at the same time, very easy to work with people and get them to put the things you have on paper out onto the screen. So it’s something I really loved working on.

Jacob: Why was now the right time to do your first feature and to tell this particular story?

Mehdi: I tried for a couple of years to raise money for this movie. Nobody wanted to put money in there for it, so I found like $280,000 and I made the film for that. So it’s very very low budget.

Jacob: It was very well received in Denmark when it was released...

Mehdi: Yeah, it actually opened in more cinemas than Dunkirk when it was released!

Jacob: It must be pretty rewarding to get that result after you’ve been struggling to get it financed for so long?

Mehdi: Yeah, and at the same time it’s very difficult to make the next one, because the expectation is so high now.


Jacob: You’re down here for the Scandinavian Film Festival at Palace Cinemas. What do you think is so special about Scandinavian film?

Mehdi: I think it’s the way we tell the story. Like, there are so many everyday life stories that we are good at putting out there in the movies. For example, there are all of those big franchise movies, which are so big and so expensive. But in Scandinavia I feel we are telling stories based on true things; based on normal people. I think people love to see a bit of themselves in their cinema, and that is what they love about Scandinavian films.

While We Live is playing in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Perth, Adelaide, Hobart and Brisbane throughout July as part of the Scandinavian Film Festival at Palace Cinemas. On the 11th of July in Sydney and the 13th of July in Melbourne, Mehdi Avaz (along with actress Julie Christiansen) will be attending Q&A screenings of the film. 

For more information, and to explore the rest of the amazing Scandinavian Film Festival Program, click the banner below.