Interview with Farzad Sangari, Director of Mudbloods: The Movie


By: Haylee Fisher (@haylee_fisher)

Quidditch has come to life on college campuses around the world and director Farzad Sangari is hoping to bring awareness to the sport in a new documentary called Mudbloods. The film follows the underdog UCLA Quidditch team through victories and defeats on their road to the Fifth Annual Quidditch World Cup in New York City.

Sangari recently spoke with The Nerd Machine about the film.

Tell me a little history behind them film and what made you realize this would make a great documentary.

I initially just saw Quidditch being played [on campus]. I was going to UCLA at the same time and I contacted the team captain, whose name is Tom, about it. At first, I was just interested in the subject, just the idea of Quidditch, but the more I got to know Tom and the more I got to know the players on the team and the more I got to know the community that surrounds it, including Alex [Benepe, commissioner of the International Quidditch Association], as well as Katie [Aiani, a Harry Potter fan], and the fans and the people who organize it, the more I realized the people that surround the whole sport would make for an interesting documentary, and on a larger scale, beyond just the idea of Quidditch as sort of a unique thing.

Most people associate Quidditch with Harry Potter. Were you a fan before making this film? If not, are you now?

I wasn’t. I didn’t read the books because I was a little bit older so I didn’t get into them but I like the movies a lot, so I enjoyed those, and I still haven’t really gotten into the books. I think what most surprised me about Quidditch, the players, and the people who get into it is that, yeah, there are a lot of fans from the series but there’s also people who aren’t associated with the series who play it just for the fun of it, for the uniqueness of the sport. And I think that’s what makes it unique is that it can bring in people that aren’t necessarily fans of [Harry Potter].

Mudbloods doesn’t shy away from the violence of the game. One scene even shows a player lying on the pitch, bleeding from his head. Knowing they can get so hurt, what do you think it is that draws people to play the game? Is it the nostalgic love of the books or is it the draw of a sport?

I think initially the series might bring people to it who are fans but if you’re going to stick with it, you have to kind of see it as its own thing because its demanding, it’s physical, it’s athletic, it’s a commitment, and I think what keeps people coming back to it is the same thing that keeps people coming back to a variety of sports: it’s the benefits that you get out of it. Another thing that makes Quidditch unique is that there’s such an emphasis, especially in the time this film was being made, about community and about sportsmanship and about camaraderie and I think those are the things people get out of it that are unique to it just being a sport, not necessarily connected to the series.

Aside from a lack of flying, what do you think is the biggest difference between Muggle Quidditch and magical Quidditch?

I don’t know if you’ve seen the rulebook, but they adapted it a lot. The two questions that you get, that you see in the movie, “Is there flying?” with the brooms, and the adaptation of the snitch. I think the snitch is probably the thing that, again, it speaks to the uniqueness of Quidditch by adding a level of, be it, theater to it, and that’s unique to other sports because it’s a ball that’s a human that’s sort of an independent party. You know, it’s another level of the game that’s added on to a game that’s already happening. It adds to the complexity of it but I think it’s, again, the theater that makes it unique. It’s the spectacle that I think draws a lot of the fans in.

An article came out in the Washington Post last week about why the Harry Potter books are so influential around the world still today. What is your personal opinion on why?

I think it connects a lot to some of the things I was talking about before. I think it’s about sacrifice, friendship…again, I’m not a huge expert on the books. I have seen all the movies, but I think some of the things that you see in the film that I think are connected, not necessarily directly, but they’re echoes of each other. The things that you see at the banquet [scene in the documentary] where it’s about the celebration and coming together, it’s about the families they create on their campuses around this thing. It gives them the opportunity to not only express themselves but to be on a team and without this sport, they wouldn’t have that opportunity.

The film touches on non-acceptance of players on the team from other students. Why do you think they encounter such negativity?

I think it’s a variety of things. I think when something is new, people judge it immediately as being potentially strange or weird. I think when people don’t understand something, when they’re ignorant of something, they just don’t have a background about it, they can make a certain judgment. I think that if any of those people played Quidditch, they would see the athleticism that’s required, and they would experience that joys that we’re talking about that are related to sports that these players get to experience. I think there’s a lot of different reasons why people potentially would make a judgment about it, but I think both in the film and the Quidditch players themselves, they don’t pay a lot of attention to it. We acknowledged it in the movie, but it’s not about that for them. They’re aware of it because they’re very self-aware in that they even make light of themselves in a way, but we don’t spend too much time on it because it’s not a big deal for them. We acknowledge it because it does exist, but I think what’s interesting about that is their confidence in the things they’re doing and that’s why a lot of the film is focused on the tournament and the things they get out of it that are more important than those judgments.

Why did you name the film Mudbloods? It is used as a derogatory term in the Harry Potter world, after all.

If you look up in the Daily Beast, I wrote a pretty long op-ed about it but in a nutshell, it starts with Tom’s story about it. The first thing you see is that, and I think one of the things that – this is some of the kind of stuff I talked about in the article – but, one of the things that really interested me about this whole thing was how they took something and how they changed it for themselves. How they adapted the thing for themselves. You say it’s a derogatory term, but in the first thing that you see, we’re not using it as a derogatory term. What I’m trying to do with the film is actually what we were saying. They’re self-aware. They’re aware that people are making fun of them, but it doesn’t matter what you call them, they’re still gonna do this thing. And just like real Quidditch – the sport of Quidditch – is different from the fictional game of Quidditch, the way we’re applying the term is different. It’s not the same thing. I think it’s a level of appropriation that you see with language that kind of part of creating the community.

So it’s trying to make it something positive.

Yeah, I mean, if we had called it something such as “Muggle Quidditch,” then you’re parodying it in a way that’s not what the sport is doing. Because they’re not trying to play Muggle Quidditch, they’re trying to create this new thing. And yeah, the term is potentially misunderstood, but just like Quidditch players, if you just watch the beginning of the movie, not only Tom’s story, but Sebastian rapping about it, they create something new out of it and I think you’ll see that what we’re trying to do with it is to change the word and create more understanding around the sport.

Tell me a little bit about the filmmaking process. How long did it take to film, edit, and release? You were making it while in school as well, correct?

I started it as a short project when I was in school. It was like a ten-minute thing, and I did that, but I came back around to it after. Like, I had kind of done some other stuff and moved on, but I kept coming back to it because the idea of doing a bigger thing, it’s the same thing I said about the characters. I thought these would make some really interesting characters. And later when I found out about the World Cup and how they were trying to go to it, then it kept getting bigger. I think that happens with documentaries. You kind of start and then you find out more things and then it unravels and unravels. So yeah, there was this initial period where I think I had a little short film, but I think then it got bigger. And the specifics of it, we shot for, consecutively, eight months. There was a one-month break where they went home, but we shot from April, May to the World Cup in November. And then there were some other shoot dates that we did after the fact and we were editing for a little over two years. There were some other shooting dates in there so I would say between eight and nine months of shooting and two, two and a half years of editing.

I majored in Radio and TV in college and we had to learn editing and I would not have the patience to edit for two years!

[Laughs] Well, it’s kind of the way we approached it. I didn’t want it to be a sit-down documentary where we sit down and we talk about Quidditch and then we go see Quidditch. It was more just like, we were following them. It’s a style of documentary that makes the editing process a little bit longer because you’re shooting a lot more, but I think fits their story a lot better because of these moments that you capture. Like the rapping in the beginning with Sebastian, that was not a planned thing but it was an important moment because I think it speaks to everything that we’re trying to do in the film and so we were able to capture that.

I loved the animations in the film. Can you tell me more about why you chose to use them?

On a practical level, the animations really helped us communicate a lot of information quickly. But beyond that, with the scores and with the games, the games can get really complicated and it allowed us to communicate not only where they were in the tournament but with the specific animation sequence itself, it kind of encapsulates the game, not the whole game, but the idea of the game, rather quickly. But to me, the bigger thing about the animation was that I wanted it to be kind of connected to their story and connected to the way we were making the film in the sense that we wanted it to be fun and simple because, essentially, Quidditch is a very do-it-yourself sport. Like you see in the movie, they duct tape their broken brooms and their broken hoops. It’s a very simple thing and we didn’t want something really elaborate but we wanted something that sort of captured their spirit that was fun and that was simple and I think that we achieved that style.

Kickstarter played a large role in the filmmaking process. Tell me more about its involvement.

It was huge. The backers really helped us get over the line with the film. It also helped us to start the process of generating awareness about the film. You mentioned earlier about the time frame of distribution and stuff. So the Kickstarter was the beginning of that. It was the first time we were showing it out. But in terms of getting the film done, we had already been editing for almost a year when the Kickstarter campaign was launched and so we had gotten a lot of editing done but we needed the funds to get to the final stages with sound and color and the music was a huge thing that we needed to do. As you saw in the movie, the music was a really important part of the whole second part of the film. And so the Kickstarter really helped us get to the finish line and I can’t express how important they were.

I live in Texas and I noticed in the tournament portion of the film, there was a Texas A&M team and an LSU team, which are two colleges around me. I didn’t know either school had a Quidditch team! Is part of the goal with the film to bring awareness to Quidditch on college campuses?

Yeah, I hope so. It just so happened that I met the UCLA team, but I think what was great about the way Tom ran his team and the group in general, we love that they went to the tournament in this very dramatic way, but I really wanted, in the opening ceremonies section, to give as many Quidditch teams as I could some exposure. It is all over the country and if you see the section, we tried to strategically pick various parts of the country – even Canada – that made it to that particular World Cup. But going back to Tom and the way he runs his team, I think it’s just a really good model of sportsmanship that they instituted that I think is really specific, to sports in general but mainly to Quidditch, there’s a large community beyond the team. Because it’s so new, there is a sense of community amongst them so they all realize that they’re all kind of part of this together and so hopefully other Quidditch teams feel that as well. Even though it is the UCLA story, hopefully other Quidditch teams can identify with it.

What was your favorite moment in the film?

[Laughs] I don’t know. I think it’s hard to pick one thing because they all mean a lot to me in a variety of ways, but I think if I had to choose one thing, it would have to be when UCLA got to play Middlebury for the first time. That moment was pretty exciting for everybody involved, not just the players, but all the filmmakers as well.

What do you hope people take away from it?

I think what I took away from it is that I was really impressed by the people that I met and inspired by their imagination and creativity and their confidence. I hope people take away that same thing when they see these people and I also hope they take away that these people took this impossible idea and made it a reality. I think that takes a lot of determination and, as I said, imagination. So I guess in very simple terms, how far can you take an idea? How far can your imagination or a willingness to create something take you? And I think they’re good examples of that.

The film shows Muggle Quidditch is a little different from magical Quidditch, but the heart of the game is the same and it’s no less magical. Check it out on iTunes or the official website at

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