Movies, Pop Culture, Interviews

Rozh Surchi on her beautiful and haunting debut film, “Daughter”

The film explores the struggles of an android girl adopted by strict, conservative Middle Eastern parents who think they can control her

Rozh Surchi is new to the film world and her debut has been enchanting audiences and winning awards all year. After getting a degree in computer science and while working as a developer, she went to film school and then released her first film, a short titled “Daughter”. In the film, an android is adopted by a family of Middle Eastern descent and is put to the test by her parents who seek to make her the perfect, subservient daughter. They customise her configurations in an attempt to control her but she is intelligent and she cannot be controlled. The film was shown at the Stockholm Independent Film Festival where it won Best Student Project, the film also won a Smart Screen Award from the Met Film School of London.

The Tempest: How did you think of the idea for this film? Who or what inspired you?

Rozh Surchi: The idea for ‘Daughter’ was not one that came to me overnight. This story is an accumulation of experiences and accounts I’ve been presented with throughout my life both personally and externally. As the daughter of a reputable and respected Kurdish tribe, I was brought up a certain way that went against the norms of Western culture. Thus, growing up in an advanced, progressive city like London wasn’t easy. I had to find the right balance between fulfilling my parents and society’s expectations of me whilst trying to ‘find myself’ throughout my teenage years. Knowing a countless number of girls who have also experienced this same struggle, I decided to create a film that harmonized all of these events into a unique, harrowing and eye-opening story in the hope that it would raise awareness to what I like to call the ‘first-generation cultured migrant daughter’s cause.

Why did you choose for the daughter to be represented by a robot instead of another kind of golem? Was there any science fiction works/authors that inspired you to use a robot? 

Rozh Surchi: The depiction of the main character as a robot is used to portray her obedience and inability to think outside of the box. She is programmed by her parents to follow specific rules (which represent her culture’s values and traditions) and analyzed occasionally by her father for anomalies in her code that suggest that she may be going off track. This reflects the high expectations a cultured parent can have for their child, and the lengths they will go to, to ensure the child will not bring shame to the family.

The daughter is named Sara. She is an AI, which means she is highly intelligent and is constantly learning throughout her surrounding environment. As time passes she makes new discoveries around the world that are forbidden to her. She becomes drawn to this outside world and wants to learn more, however, her parent’s restrictions make it difficult for her to do this

Is there a particular audience you’re trying to speak to?

Rozh Surchi: I like to think that this is a story that everyone should witness, all ethnicities, ages, and genders. However, it is most specifically targeted at cultured parents who are raising their children in a foreign country, and girls and boys who are experiencing the struggle of living between multiple cultures and societies.

Image shows a still from the short film, Daughter. Sara's mother stands in a kitchen, her hand is resting on the upper arm of her android daughter, who stares blankly ahead.
Still from “Daughter”

What’s the message you want to get across to your audience through this film? 

Rozh Surchi: The message is clear in that all parents should carefully assess the way that they choose to bring up their child and the restrictions they put in place for them. Children like Sara from the film, are highly intelligent and curious and will find a way to get around barriers. I believe that any radical boundaries set for a child can be detrimental to their health, and may affect their life choices and future in the long run.

It’s also important that young girls around the world who struggle with this issue know that they are not alone and that their silent voices are being heard. I hope that one day all girls around the world will have the freedom to experience their lives to the fullest – through making their own mistakes and learning from them, falling in love with anyone they please, following unconventional careers, believing in whatever they want to believe in, and to fully grasp the equality between themselves and men.

Are you planning to continue making films?

Rozh Surchi: I certainly am! I’m working on a few small projects at the moment and hoping to work on another big project similar to ‘Daughter’ in the near future. Follow me on Vimeo if you liked ‘Daughter’ and would like to see more.

This interview was edited for length and clarity