Leasider Rouzbeh Heydari sits in his Queen and Spadina editing office on April Fool’s Day, recounting a ghostly story his mom shared with him when he was old enough to hear such a tale.
His colleague and partner in crime, Forest Hill actor-producer Ann Pirvu, sits on a couch close by.
The story takes place in his native Iran, when he was 1. His mom had just put him down to sleep on the second floor of their home. She placed a pacifier in his mouth, and he was off to sleep.
Moments later, when she was on the main floor, she glanced back at the stairs and was astounded to see Rouzbeh in the company of her dead mother! She was certain it was her mother because of the specific rings on her hand. She shot up the stairs to Rouzbeh’s room, and discovered him choking on a small piece of the pacifier, which had broken off in his mouth.
Pirvu shrinks in fear and lets out an ooh.
That tale was no April Fool’s joke, however, and it has left an impression on Heydari. It also played some part in his spooky short Astraea that had its national premiere at the Canadian Film Fest on March 28.
The film focuses on a car crash involving two parents, played by Pirvu and Ted Jefferies, as well as their infant son, who was riding in the back seat.
With the vehicle wrapped around a tree in the middle of nowhere, Pirvu’s character leaves the passenger side, dazed, and attempting to free her child. Her unsuccessful attempts lead her to take to the rural road, flagging down another couple, played by Mckenzie Ball and Jen Pogue.
After desperate pleas for the rescue of her child, the film cuts to Ball approaching the vehicle, rescuing the infant, and then making an unexplainable discovery.
“You’re all alone, and you have two choices: you either give up and cry, fall to your knees, ‘I’m defeated, what the heck do I do now?'” Pirvu says. “Or there’s that survivor inside of you and you say, I have to step up and try to do whatever I can to make this horrible situation better.”
Astraea was shot between Oct. 16 and Halloween as a personal project for the tight group of filmmakers. It is a ghost story, and without giving away too much, its main theme is love and a mother’s intuition.
Heydari says his mom was part of the inspiration for the flick, as were some common urban legends from the annals of North American history.
“For me it was a real portrayal of a mother’s will — combining the ghost story elements with the human side of things,” he admits. “That’s how the idea moulded into my mind, because ghost stories are cool and you can have some fun with them.”
What gave the duo chills during the premiere was the story of Lily, the 18-month-old who survived a car crash in a chilly Utah river.
First responders alleged they heard a female voice cry, “Help us.” After turning the vehicle over on its side to get to the occupants, they noticed the mother had no vital signs; she had been in the water for 14 hours. Lily, barely alive, was found strapped into her car seat above the rushing river.
“This is why I was like, ‘What?'” Pirvu says. “There’s no way the mother could have survived the initial impact.”
“That’s freaky,” Heydari adds.
Those looking for a good scare can catch Astraea at Rue Morgue’s Little Terrors monthly series on April 29 at the Carlton Theatre, as well as a future screening at the Rio Fantastic Film Festival in Brazil.