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‘Grand Me,’ Documentary About Iranian Girl in Custody Battle, Acquired by Cat&Docs for World Sales (EXCLUSIVE)

Paris-based Cat&Docs has acquired world sales rights for “Grand Me” by Iranian filmmaker Atiye Zare Arandi. The documentary, about an Iranian girl in the middle of a custody battle, is set to world premiere in the NEXT:WAVE strand at CPH:DOX on March 18.

Set in Esfahan, Iran, “Grand Me” follows Melina, who has lived with her grandparents since her parents’ divorce. She wants to live with her mother, but this is not possible because both her father and new stepfather are against it. Besides that, Melina’s mother struggles to strike a balance between her relationship with her new spouse and maintaining a positive relationship with her daughter.

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Celebrating her 9th birthday, Melina is finally old enough to bring her custody case to court. With the law on her side, she hopes to choose her own custodian. Unfortunately, Melina is not aware of how the adult world is organized and how things will probably play out.

“The idea for the film originated when Melina told me she wanted — just like me — to become a film director, using her phone to make videos,” Zare Arandi, who is Melina’s aunt, explains. “I came to realize how confident this ego-filming makes Melina, and it also underscored that filmmaking is something that gives her confidence. Melina is continuously looking for ways to empower herself and free herself of the cruel home situation she is in. Filming herself and allowing me to film her and her family has been an important step in this process.”

She adds: “My access and proximity to the characters, being the aunt of the main film character, has contributed to a dynamic, unaffected, and realistic atmosphere in the narrative. Over the two years of filming and exclusive in-depth access, the presence of the camera in the house has become invisible, and my family members show honest and authentic behavior.”

Zare Arandi says that the focus is on Melina and the emotional process she is going through. “This process is intrinsically linked to people’s specific cultural and social background. I feel I need to tell Melina’s story, not only because she is so close to me, but also because it’s recognizable for so many people around the world. Telling this story through the eyes of a child brings a new perspective.”

Zare Arandi hopes that the film will have a constructive influence on parents who are in the middle of a separation and that it will contribute to a better awareness of the well-being of their children.

“We believe strongly in stories which are not solely told about their protagonists, but are able to capture their own version of events and perspective. ‘Grand Me’ proves that young voices matter and strive to be heard,” Maëlle Guénégues from Cat&Docs says. “Through trust, warmth and an insider’s privilege we not only learn about a young girl being emotionally torn apart by her parents’ divorce, but also the impact their choices have on a whole family. At the same time — and without being the core of the film — the film is an intimate observation of family dynamics within the framework of larger patriarchal forces.”

The film is produced by Bram Crols at Belgium’s Associate Directors. The co-producers are ATAM Film in Iran, VRT in Belgium and Al Jazeera Documentary Channel in Qatar. It is supported by Flanders Audiovisual Fund (VAF) and Belgian Development Cooperation (DGD), with additional support from DMZ Docs Industry, Documentary and Experimental Film Center (DEFC) and the Tax Shelter System of the Belgian Federal Government via Flanders Tax Shelter.

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