Our projects

City of Poets

A short documentary by Sara Rajaei
Production: near/by film

Through a collage of personal archive footage and photographs, the history emerges of a semi-utopian, metaphorical city, where all the streets are named after poets. When war begins, new neigbourhoods are built to accomodate the refugees. Abrubt and sweeping upheavals lead to confusion among the city's residents. Soon they find themselves lost amid the memories of the forgotten poets.

Director's statement:


"The idea for City of Poets started with a Mulberry tree, planted by my grandmother in the garden of her house. The tree was almost as old as me. It was a rare tree as it gave both red and white berries. That tree presented me with domesticity, happiness, belonging, and a sense of wisdom. My grandmother had a strong connection to it, too; she always talked to it, sang to it and danced in front of it. Once the tree was gone, it felt as if she had died again.


The absence of the tree brought me to my memories of my grandmother’s house and how it had become the first shelter for my family after becoming refugees of war. Then my mind moved to the alley where the house was located, and then I thought of the city, where all the streets were named after poets. As a four-year-old, I knew many poets’ names.


It was a complex process of remembering. But once I began writing the voice over, the order of things changed. I wrote about a fictional city where all the streets were named after poets. And then with every change of society, the street names were replaced by new ones. In a way these changes were gradually mapping the history of that city from the inside. From there, I moved to one specific alley, a specific house, ending with the Mulberry tree.


City of Poets is a chain of images, just like the daisy chain of memories I based the story on. Each frame gives birth to the next and motivates another image to appear. I have constructed the structural transition of the city through fragmentary memories that are told by the voice-over, addressing the most essential aspect of oral history: as something that is not fixed and made up of different sources and voices, without specific hierarchy, repeated and changed ever so slightly. In City of Poets, the town's psychogeography defines the mental and emotional state of its inhabitants, a small group of people living in a utopian illusion founded on poetry. And because the place is not named, the changes and confusion can trigger personal stories and memories in the viewer."

Personal website Sara Rajaei
Documentary, 22 min, 2024

Premiere: 74 Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin, Berlinale Shorts Competition, 2024
Other screenings: Hong Kong International Film Festival (Short film Competition), Go Short (Dutch Competition)
Supported by: Netherlands Film Fund, Mondriaan Fund, Cultuurfonds, Vevam, DKC Rotterdam


Written and directed by Sara Rajaei
Editing: Nathalie Alonso Casale
Sound design: Milan Gataric
Grading: Laurent Fluttert
Final mix: Hugo Dijkstal
Graphic design: Atelier Alambic
Images from the archives of Fardid Khadem, Majid Kazemi, Sara Rajaei
Distribution: Gargantua Film Distribution