The project

“The starting point for The Host was a disorderly mass of materials drawn from BP’s visual archive documenting the company’s origins in Iran, which I wanted to bring to life. I was interested in the role of BP and the British government in Iran’s traumatic 20th century. My father had joined the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company in 1946 and our family lived in Iran during two separate postings. It became apparent that the intersection of an Imperial history and a personal history would provide a way to mediate the abstractions of big historical events through living memory and the lens of personal experience.

As I put the archival images together, I looked for coincidences and allowed my speculations to create connections with other images and stories. Although all of the film’s sources are either archival or family documents, the film often takes on a fictional character. This happens partly because the film is narrated as a dramatisation of my historical investigation, but mainly because it deals with the fantasies and projections of the British colonisers. It is this psychic dimension of colonialism that I wanted make palpable through the film, because of its persistence and contemporary relevance.

The title The Host refers to one of the key figures in the film, a contemporary of my parents who hosted many corporate parties in Tehran in the late 1960’s. But also to the image of Iran as the host nation to the British for much of the 20th century, which suggests the relationship between parasite and host.”

Miranda Pennell, 2015