Oscars: <I>The Red Suitcase</I>
Marc Loftus
January 12, 2023

Oscars: The Red Suitcase

The Red Suitcase, from director Cyrus Neshvad, reveals the heartbreaking story of a 16-year-old Iranian girl, who’s been sent to  Luxembourg to meet a man that her family has arranged for her to marry. After arriving at Luxembourg Airport with only a single suitcase, the girl is hesitant to meet the man and begin her new life. Instead, she does all she can to avoid him and escape the airport undetected. At the same time, her father - the financial beneficiary of the arrangement - is trying to track her by phone.

The Red Suitcase is shortlisted for the 95th Academy Awards, in the Live-Action Short category, having qualified by winning the Oscar-qualifying award at the Tirana International Film Festival. The project was written by Guillaume Levil and Neshvad more than two years ago as a way to bring attention to the humanitarian issues women are facing in Iran - an issue that has more recently come to the world’s attention with so many having gone missing.
Neshvad is a Luxembourg-based director of Iranian origin and says he could identify with the young woman’s (played by French actress Nawelle Evad) feelings of loneliness when arriving in a new country. Neshvad has directed several short films, including The Orchid, Antoine, Son and Portraitist, which have all been produced by Cynefilms. The short’s somber tone was composer Kyan Bayani.

“I was surprised and proud,” says Neshvad of the film being shortlisted. 

The Red Suitcase takes place over the course of just a few hours, but involved seven days of shooting.

“We used (Arri’s) Alexa and anamorphic lenses to show how huge the airport is,” Neshvad recalls.

Short focal lengths helped reinforce the fact that she was alone at night in an unfamiliar place. The edit, he notes, was a challenge, as his initial thought was to go with faced-paced cutting, only to ultimately slow it down.

“We needed to be very slow,” he explains. “The slower we got, it also gave us opportunity to be more inside her head.”

Dialogue is also minimal. Instead, the girl’s actions and reactions to the circumstances hold the viewer’s attention. The color red represents her heart, and it reinforced by how tightly she holds the luggage. The bus that she escapes in was specifically selected for its red curtains and the industrial storage area, where she hides, much like a migrant would when trying to escape persecution. Red lighting is also used to show the connection between her heart and the contents of the luggage.

“I hope they will take away loneliness and tenderness of this Iranian girl,” says Neshvad of the film.