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Leave it to Caveh Zahedi to win the hearts of indie filmmakers at the Gotham Awards when he accepted the Filmmaker-sponsored “Best Film Not Playing in a Theater Near You” prize. In his remarks he said that too many great indie films don’t make it to the theaters because, frankly, filmmakers are “too tired” after finishing their films and expect, unrealistically, distributors, who are struggling to get their own slates out there, to do all the heavy lifting. Zahedi said that after recuperating a bit after his own shoot and festival jaunt, he got on the phone and asked distributors if they’d play the film. “Some said ‘no,'” he recounted, “but others said ‘yes.'” His feature, I am a Sex Addict, will open New York in February, and you’ll hear a lot more on this blog about it as we try to help Zahedi in his self-distribution venture.

In the meantime, here’s what I wrote about Zahedi and the film in the special edition of Filmmaker given out at the Gotham Awards.

“Sex and the Suffering Filmmaker”

By handing out this card on his search for financing the film I Am A Sex Addict, Zahedi was rehearsing the same blend of performance art and twelve-step confessional that makes his latest feature so unexpectedly engaging. Bookended by scenes of Zahedi’s own marriage, the film is unclassifiable in its mix of autobiographical re-enactments with cinematic flights of fancy, lowbrow humor with philosophical treatise. Not quite a doc but certainly not a fiction, I am a Sex Addict is an “essay film,” a genre embraced by French filmmakers like Jean-Luc Godard and Chris Marker but not seen so often originating from these shores.

Propelled by his compulsion to have his cake and eat it too — that is to sleep with prostitutes and then to confess his encounters to a loving and understanding girlfriend — Zahedi’s film is also a cinematic exploration of the concept of “truth” in both relationships and storytelling. Speaking directly to the viewer, Zahedi improvises his way through the movie, trying to stay honest while he casually swaps hometown San Francisco for European locations and casting as his ex a cute lookalike he meets on the street — only to later discover on the internet that she’s a vacationing European porn star turning tricks in town.

The film’s inventiveness was a direct result of his low budget. “The money I raised,” explains Zahedi, “was insufficient to make the film as written, so I ended up having to re-conceive it. And that forced re-conception ended up being the most interesting thing about the movie. The structure grew organically out of the editing process. I shot, and edited, and re-shot, and re-edited, and re-shot. It took three and a half years. I wouldn’t do the next film that way, but this one needed it.”

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