VIFF 2005 – A quick chat with Caveh Zahedi, a real “Sex Addict”
By Jason Whyte
Posted 10/11/05 03:37:21
Caveh Zahedi’s “I am a Sex Addict” is a quasi-documentary about a man who is addicted to sex so much that he keeps trying to outdo himself with every intimate encounter. Now when I say quasi-documentary, I am referring to the fact that Caveh plays himself in re-enactments along with his own home film footage, right down to his younger self; this is accomplished in one scene by spraying his bald spot to make him appear 20 years younger.
“Sex Addict” refuses to be a timid film, using strong language, sexual content and subject matter to make its point. The result is a film that is brutally honest but also very funny and revealing, to show a man who learns to overcome a truly awkward addiction.
I had the opportunity to have a quick chat with Caveh about the film prior to one of the film’s screenings at this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival.
This is a quasi-documentary on your real life; which I originally referred to as a mockumentary because at first glance, the idea of one person being this kind of sex addict is truly out there. What compelled you to tell the story in this fashion?
I felt compelled to tell the story in this fashion because I felt it was important to be absolutely honest (hence the documentary footage), and because it seemed like the optimal way to tell it (hence the re-mixture of documentary footage and re-enactments).
Did you always set out to have yourself play Caveh? Did you have any intention to have another actor play yourself (and if so, who?).
When I wrote the script, it was the intention of playing myself, but after several years of trying to raise money for the film and failing, I was talked into trying to cast a name actor to play the role. I tried at various times to get Robert Downey Jr, Steve Buscemi, Chris Eigeman, Vincent Gallo and Harmony Korine to play the role, but they all turned it down.
Was absolutely everything that was seen in the film true, or were any sequences dramaticized for the sake of the film?
Everything in the film actually happened. I didn't make anything up.
You were originally intending to do this with a larger budget. If you had more money, what do you think would be different about the film?
My initial intention was to make a two million dollar film in 35 mm, which would be shot in all of the actual locations (and countries) in which the events occurred. If I had been able to raise that money, the film would have been a lot more naturalistic and a lot more conventional in style.
I liked moments where you made clear that there wasn't enough money to shoot in certain locations, and how you couldn't hire an actor to play a younger Caveh, for example. Was this written directly into the script or did you have to change stuff on the fly during production?
When I eventually managed to raise a fraction of the money that I needed to shoot the script as originally written, I had to re-write the script slightly to address this drastically reduced budget. It was at that time that I wrote the self-reflexive moments into the script.
How has I am a Sex Addict been received at other festivals? Do you have any interesting stories of audience reactions, people directly approaching you or any interesting arguments about the film?
The film has been extremely well received wherever it has shown. I am usually approached by at least one person who confides in me that he (or she) is also a sex addict.
Should this film find a distributor, do you fear that because of the content, the film may receive an NC-17 rating? Would you release it uncut and unrated, or edit it down to an R rating to find a larger audience?
I think the film should receive an NC-17 rating, as I don't think it is suitable for anyone under the age of 17. It would be absurd to try to edit it down to an R rating, nor would I ever do so.
Who are your biggest influences in you work? Who are your favorite directors, actors, writers, etc, and who would you like to work with in the future?
The filmmaker I have been most influenced by is undoubtedly Jean-Luc Godard. He taught me to question everything about what a film is and to be interested in trying to discover what a film can be.
If someone came up to you and asked to make a large budget film feature, what do you think it would be about?
It would be a film entitled "How to Overthrow the U.S. Government."
Special thanks to Caveh Zahedi for this interview. “I am a Sex Addict” is currently screening at the 24th Vancouver International Film Festival. For a review of the film, please click HERE. For more information on the film, screening times and ticket information, point your browser to www.viff.org or cavehzahedi.com. Comments about this article are encouraged and can be sent to Jason by clicking HERE.