‘Like the Iranian oil workers who haunt Pennell, this is a film that refuses to get back in its box.’ Sukhdev Sandhu, Sight & Sound
A filmmaker turns forensic detective as she pieces together hundreds of photographs in search of what she believes to be a buried history, only to find herself inside the story she is researching. The Host investigates the activities of British Petroleum (BP) in Iran; a tale of power, imperial hubris and catastrophe. While the tectonic plates of geopolitical conspiracy shift in the background, the film asks us to look, and look again, at images produced by the oil company and personal photos taken by its British staff in Iran– including the filmmaker’s parents– not for what they show, but for what they betray. The Host is about the stories we tell about ourselves and others, the facts and fictions we live by - and their consequences.
The film was premiered at London Film Festival and internationally at International Film Festival Rotterdam.
"My father had joined the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company in 1946 and our family had lived in Iran during two separate postings. The starting point for The Host was a disorderly mass of materials drawn from BP’s visual archive documenting the company’s origins in Iran.
I was interested in the role of BP and the British government in Iran’s traumatic 20th century. It became apparent that the intersection of an Imperial history and a personal history would provide a way to ground the abstractions of big historical events through living memory and the particularity of personal experience - albeit via the experiences and testimony of the colonisers.