Essmat Sophie

Writer, producer and director of the film
 “Dancing Amid Fire, Rising Above Ruins”

Honorable Mention Best Director of Animation

Essmat Sophie (Asima) is an award-winning author, award-winning film director, researcher, and activist. Born and raised in the Kurdish region of Iran. After several years living in United States, now she is living in Norway...

She holds a master’s degree In information Science from University of Oslo and Tehran university, and another degree in English Literature, American and British studies, from University of Oslo, and another in Social Science from Salt Lake City university.

The titles of her latest books are: “Dancing Amid Fire, Rising Above Ruins” (2023), “Last Day of Autumn” (2021); and “In The eye of the Storm" (2013), which got the literary award "Ordknappen" Prize in Norway. She has translated some books and articles from English to other Languages. Latest translated title is: "Women's Journey from Shadow to Light"

Essmat Sophie's writings have appeared in Science databases as ScienceDirect, Academy Search Premier and some literary periodicals. Sophie's stories and articles have appeared in various publications.

Sophie is a prolific film director and film producer. Her last animation short film: “Dancing Amid Fire, Rising Above Ruins” is made in 2023. An excerpt from the most current published novel by Essmat Sophie served as the inspiration for this animation. She is writer, producer, and director of this animation film.

Learn more at

Your project has entered our festival. What is your project about?  

I'm an author. This short film is based on a scene from my debut novel, Hundred Thousand Words, which was recently released in May 2023 in London. The book also goes by that name. The quest for freedom is the subject of the book. Trauma and persecution are battles that the human spirit fights. Additionally, it provides insight into the history of Kurdish resistance in Iran, an ignored region and its people. The complexity of Kurdish or Iranian women's triple struggle to escape political oppression, male dominance, as well as enduring a life of exile and marginalization, is also thoroughly psychologically depicted in this book. In poetry and songs, friendship, love, and betrayal are frequently depicted in the context of war, gender and ethnic discrimination, activism, and resistance. Novel links the past to the present by relating contemporary women's movement in Iran "woman, life, freedom” , to the past.

This short film follows Tara's life as a child and subsequently as an adult. Her life is linked with life and death. When their city is destroyed, she loses her new red shoes, which she received as a new year's gift. Her family and she seek refuge in shelters. 42 years later, Tara now lives in Norway with her young children. Many people chanted "woman, life, freedom" and cut their hair in front of the Norwegian Parliament in solidarity with the Iranian women's movement. After marching, Tara's daughter selects the exact shoe that Tara lost 42 years ago. Tara dedicates the hope, ambition, and passion she lost in her life to her daughter, or the next generation.

What are your ambitions with your project?  

Since this is my debut film, I hope that it will gain acknowledgement, be screened at film festivals throughout the world, and receive positive reviews and producer interest. Additionally, I would like funding to help me improve this short film and turn other chapters, or maybe the entire book, into a movie or an animation. Beyond this goal, my biggest ambition for this project is to keep doing what I do best, producing and writing narratives that spectators throughout the world may enjoy and appreciate. My goal is to sign with a large agency and producers so that my writing may give voice to the voiceless. The more creative opportunities I have, the happier I'll be overall.

Tell us something about your shooting? What pleasantly surprised you?  

I functioned as the film's producer, director, and writer for this animated short. Of course, Mr. Mohammadi, a Kurdish artist who resides in Iran, created the animation designs for me. Due to the fact that I was also the self-producer and had a very limited budget, it frequently led to arguments between the animator and I about how to adapt a scene from my novel for the short film. In animation, every single second of the film is expensive. I had to supervise from a distance because the animator was in Iran and I was in Norway. To describe every scenario and guide the animator, we occasionally had long phone conversations. The story was so compelling that we were able to set all of our doubts aside at times. However, each time I spoke with the animator, we gained more ambition and drive to continue working on this project.

For what group of spectators is your film targeted?  

There is no specific audience group targeted by the movie. Its target and message are universal. I wished to be unrestricted.

Why should distributors buy your film?  

Because This film is about bitter reality. Despite bitter reality in our world, as war and .. but we should continue to dream and give a better future to next generation. This movie enables the film's message, which is closely tied to worldwide difficulties, to reach a wider audience. Perhaps as a result, we might envision a world that is more beautiful and safer.


How would you specify your work? What characterizes your film?  

This movie is about life, struggle and hope. Sometimes we need to forget what we already know and look at the situation from the perspective of the Other. This film is significant because it links our experiences to those of individuals, historical periods, and geographical locations that we have never been. This short film is significant because it transforms empathy into resistance, much like an alchemist. It centers the peripheral, gives the voiceless a voice, and makes the invisible visible. And it explores silences while also bringing to life other people's stories.


Why did you decide to become a filmmaker?  

As I already mentioned, I am a writer. since I was a little child. I used to use my imagination while I wrote. I always envisioned every scenario as a movie in my head and wrote and imagined everything at the same time. Along with writing, making movies has always been a goal of mine. I was always curious about people's lives, their unique stories, as well as the factors that divide people—such as borders, color, class, or gender—from one another. I believe that the roles of writer and filmmaker are extremely similar. They try to connect people across boundaries and allow us to see beyond the artificial divisions of race, gender, class or ethnicity. They strive to remove people's indifference and make them aware of what is going on around them. There is no "us" and "them" for me as a writer or filmmaker. There are just people with stories and silences.


Who is your role model?  

Not only have filmmakers and films impacted me throughout my life, but so have great authors, singers, painters, theater actors, musicians, philosophers and scientists. It's difficult for me to name anyone. But I believe that my role models are the humble women or men, who play their best roles in life's movie and have never received a medal or an accolade. As my grandma and my mother, courageous women or mothers are always my role models. Men and women who, despite adversity, never gave up and played the game of life and their roles to the best of their abilities. If I name a great film director in the film industry, I can name Michael Powell and his film Red Shoes, Francis Ford Coppola and his Godfather and Alfred Hitchcock and his unique films.  


Which movies are your favorites? Why?  

Because there are so many movies, it is difficult to pick one or few, but I can mention some names: Beloved, reader, Precious, Sindabad and One and Thousands Night. They depict a world of legends, magic, and mystical. or demonstrate the realm of politics, strife, inequity, and discrimination.


Where do you look for inspiration for your films?  

Based on my personal experiences. In the lives of unnoticed and modest people whom I might have randomly encountered at the train station or on the side of the street on any given day. When I come across them, I realize that existence entails resistance—for them as well as for me.


Which topics interest you the most?

Human relationship, History, social construction and its impact on human life, political issues and human’s struggle and comics.

What do you consider your greatest achievement in your career?  

Finding the strength to complete my novel and making a very small passage of that novel into a movie is my greatest achievement. Another important achievement is the freedom to choose the topics which have global values and implications. To write about, produce movies about, or engage in any creative endeavor is always my greatest accomplishment. These achievements illuminate my vision in a world that can often appear so dark and gloomy. Creativity, the situation that led me to begin with the process of filmmaking, the tasks which I had to accomplish, and all the actions which I had to do, taught me to set priorities for my time and maintain goal focus. I'm happy with this accomplishment as well.

What do you consider most important about filming?  

Belief in one's work and a universal message. Something that softens the harsh reality and makes it more bearable. By making films and depicting the realities of human life and the environment in which we live in, we hope to not only raise consciousness and attention to topics that we believe are vital, but also to create the possibility of portraying a better and more beautiful world. I believe that the film inspires us to visualize and depict a more idealistic future. Perhaps the ultimate goal of making a movie is to improve our reality in the world.

Which film technique of shooting do you consider the best?  

It varies. But in my opinion, what matters most is that you be aware of the emotional impact that each scene should have.


How would you rate/What is your opinion about current filmmaking?  

If the world is changing, so must filmmaking change too. I feel it is heading in the right path. However, I believe that filmmakers should take more chances. We live in extremely different times these days, and traditional narrative no longer suffices. As a result, thinking beyond the box is essential. In addition, we can see that young individuals and the upcoming generation have wonderful, original ideas. The first prerequisite for producing better films is budget. Independent filmmakers should, in my opinion, receive greater attention and oppurtunity.

What can disappoint you in a movie?  

Failure to provide a good script or writing, weak plot or a weak ending.


Who supports you in your film career?  

Apart from my family and friends, no institution, organization or individual have supported me. My family and friends were a great source of spiritual support for me. All of the drawings of this short animation film are produced by hand rather than by machine. I paid for everything by myself with a bank loan. َ I had saved some money to taking care of my teeth and had to use that savings to make this movie. As you know, the cost of fixing and repairing teeth in a country such as Norway is extremely high. However, in any case, my main priority was to finish this film. The interest, passion and enthusiasm was so great that nothing could deter or discourage me because. I have never received sponsorship from any organization or institution. Of course, I didn’t contact or apply to any of them. Maybe they'd have helped if I had sent an application. But for developing of this short movie in future I hope to get some support from other sources.  

Dancing Amid Fire, Rising Above Ruins

Tara is a little girl from Iran's Kurdish ethnic group. Life and death are intertwined in her life. When their mothers visit the graves of loved ones lost in state violance, war and bombing after Iran revolution in 1979, she and her freinds play hide and seek in the graveyard back stones and trees.Tara receives a fantastic gift for the New Year, the red shoes she has always desired. She dances joyfully and adores shoes so much that she sleeps with shoes. The bombs and conflict intensify the following morning. Tara loses her shoe companion as she and her family seek refuge in shelters. 42 years later, Tara is now a grown woman who lives in Norway with her young daughter. Many women and men gathered in front of Norway's parliament, cutting their hair in solidarity with the Iranian women's movement in 2022, and singing the slogan "woman, life, freedom." Tara goes to a shopping center with her little daughter after the march, and her daughter chooses the exact shoe that Tara lost 42 years ago. Tara purchases shoes for her. Tara has spent many years attempting to provide her kid with everything she has been denied in her country as a girl. She survived to just give a better life to her daughter in a free and democratic society.