On the doorstep of a very eventful Spring, French-Iranian actress Mina Kavani takes a moment to talk to us about her journey to find freedom in creativity. Her words are like a breath of fresh air carrying a delicious hint of rose.

THE KURATOR: You were born in Tehran to a family of artists, but for the last decade you’ve lived in Paris. What was it about your family environment that made you want to become an actress? And as it stands now, do you consider yourself more a French actress or an Iranian one?

MINA KAVANI: I come from a family of artists who spoke French, and I always knew I wanted to try my luck at acting in France because I’ve always been in love with the country. My family has a long history with France, and I wanted to audition to get into the Conservatoire de Paris. I have an uncle who’s a cinema and theatre director (Ali Rafie) whom I’ve spoken at length about in interviews. He lived in France for some forty years and passed down to me a sense of French and Parisian culture. By age 16, I knew I wouldn’t always be by my family’s side in Tehran. I wanted to be somewhere freer where I could make my humble way as an artist on my own terms, which wouldn’t have been possible in Iran. Graduating from the Conservatoire, I was offered the lead role in the film Red Rose by French-Iranian director Sepideh Farsi. I was so young and thin-skinned then, but I also had this wild side. And I still have it (laughter). It’s like two different minds guide me through my career.

One’s spontaneous, it is my heart guiding me to follow certain ideas. The other one is when reality rebuffs me on. Whatever the case, I’ll always go where my heart and my creative sense tell me to. I think that, as artists, if we’re not taking risks, why be an artist? I figure I only have one life and I don’t want this sole, artistic life of mine to resemble something I could have had back in Iran. Unless you know what it’s like to live in exile, you can’t understand. One’s nationality and identity can’t simply be broken in two. You live what you are.

To be honest, and I say this in my one-woman-show, I don’t feel Iranian, French, or anything else. I feel like a soul, a free spirit. I feel like an artist who belongs to no one place and every place.

Yet you remain strongly tied to Iran, as evidenced in much of your projects. Is that important to you?

Iran will always be there, but if I’m being honest, I wish that weren’t the case. I really get worked up about labels. I find them oppressive. I don’t want to be thought of as strictly an Iranian actress. Actresses working in Iran now aren’t me, and I don’t represent them. I don’t represent Iranian culture or French culture. I’m a mix. I’m me, Mina, and I want people to approach me for my personality and what I give off, not for where I come from.

Sure, if my Iranian roots help me portray a character, I can use that, but based on my tastes, my artistic choices, the music I listen to, and the movies I like, I’ve always been international. Not to compare myself to another actress and her tragic fate, but no one speaks of Romy Schneider as a French-German actress. Romy Schneider is Romy Schneider, period. Penelope Cruz’s career began in Spanish cinema, but now she does films all over the world. Sometimes at the outset you have to base yourself in your deepest identity, but after a while you’ll have the strength to tear the label off, break the chains, and say no.

Do you ever have the feeling that you’re a different actress when you speak Farsi as opposed to French or English? And do you have a favourite language?

Yes. It was in coming to France and starting out at the Conservatoire that I was first blown away by how a language and its cultural history can change the artist and the actor you are. Acting is bound up with language, so I’m not the same actress depending on the language. Though my French acting career does influence me when I act in Persian. I felt myself change when I came to France. Maybe that’s just psychological, but it’s been amazing. Now French is the language I feel freest in. And when I write monologues or my own work, I never write in Persian. I’ve only ever written in French, despite all the mistakes (laughter). I find it’s a country and a language that poses no boundaries. It’s the language of my heart and my soul.

Speaking of freedom, do you feel freer on stage and on film sets than in your day-to-day life?

Yes! I can be so shy in regular life. I’m still outgoing, but there are private aspects of my life that I’m unable to express in the day-to-day, and it’s always been that way. When I’m acting, I’m not the same woman I am when I go about daily life. I write my one-woman-shows on my own and talk about things that I want to say that I can’t say in regular life. It’s cathartic. In different characters, I can find freedom by channeling my own emotions, faults, and vulnerabilities. My one-woman-shows are like me crying out for freedom. I’m self-critical and always doubting myself, which builds up in Mina.

I came into this work via a traditional route and have always been inspired by the likes of Romy Schneider, Isabelle Adjani, and Isabelle Huppert, whose had a particularly brilliant career in my view. She’s taught me a lot in how she’s involved in so many films and more, yet she always comes back to theatre, to the stage. That’s where I want to make my mark too. The stage is my free space and a place where I can recharge.

Do you see fashion and clothing as a form of creative expression? How do you approach a photo shoot like the one you did for the cover of this issue?

I need the clothing I wear to help me get as close as possible to who I am deep down. Of course, there are dresses and looks that can make you look more beautiful, but I think subconsciously I always drift toward clothing that makes me feel at home in my own person. Actors have a special relationship to clothing in the way of costume and wardrobe. When you slip into costume, you’re almost halfway to becoming the character. The way we relate to the wardrobe is in some way similar to the way we relate to the character. It all goes hand in hand. I’m impressed by what Timothé (Timothé Grand-Chavin, stylist and associate artistic manager for The Kurator) came up with for the shoot. I was saying I’m Iranian but don’t want to be pigeonholed as that, and Timothé understood all too well! He figured out what my world is, my style is, and the parts of me I don’t necessarily put out there for everyone to see.

In your upcoming film Reading Lolita in Tehran, directed by Eran Riklis, you share the screen with Golshifteh Farahani and Zar Amir Ebrahimi, whom you’ve spoken of as your “big sisters in exile”. Do they embody women’s empowerment to you? And is your relationship with them the epitome of sisterhood?

Golshifteh and I go way back. She was very close with my older sister in Tehran and she likewise worked with my uncle, so I’d see her at his place a lot. I love her deeply. What’s funny is how different our paths, tastes, and styles have been, but still I admire her so much. She’s someone who’s extremely free. She’s like a big sister to me, and we both love each other. When I was in Red Rose and acting for Jafar Panahi (in No Bears, which won the Special Jury Prize at the 2022 Venice Film Festival), I never thought I’d be an activist or feminist.

I simply followed my heart. I do what I want to do, and sometimes that leads me to making firm statements on issues. We hope that Reading Lolita in Tehran, which comes out this year, will make it to Cannes and Venice. The director’s choice of female actors was amazing. My character is perhaps the most -rock and roll and I identified a lot with her.

What are some of your other projects upcoming this year?

I play the protagonist in Embassy 87 by English director Colin Teague, which comes out in Spring. It was shot between Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and the desert. A lot of films and series are being shot in those places nowadays. I speak in English, Farsi, and a bit of Arabic with the help of a language coach. I can’t divulge a whole lot about it, but it’s very exciting and I really like my character. It’s a spy series taking places in the 1970s and 1980s. I loved working with Colin, the director. I think he’s amazing and I love how he coaches actors. It was my first series, and I think my theatre training helped me a great deal to adapt.

If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would it be? Can you describe it to us?

I’d be in my parents’ garden in Tehran, which is an old Iranian house split up into different plots with a fountain and a pond in the center. It’s very romantic and poetic with lots of roses and grapes growing everywhere, and of course lots of birds singing. I’ve written a lot about that garden, and my one-woman-show (returning to Paris theatres in 2025) even has a whole scene about it!


Crepe dress with lace details and long tulle gloves, GIVENCHY. Disco ear pendants, ROGER VIVIER. Aqua Allegoria Forte Florabloom, eau de parfum. Météorites, light revealing pearls of powder. KissKiss Bee Glow Oil, plumping lip oil, GUERLAIN

Upcycled maxi double sleeve trench, BALENCIAGA

Trench coat, Toile de Jouy Soleil pattern, and black pleated skirt, DIOR. Maryanne 100 leather pumps, JIMMY CHOO

Hair, Fanny Fraslin. Make-up, Charlotte Nguyen. Manucure, Mathilde Guyot. Set design, Jimme Cloo