Pub talk between friends can often lead into unknown territory. In the case of two Co Antrim men, such chatter has prompted a journey from Northern Ireland to Iran.
Nathan Reid and Fabian Beickhorasani, from Glengormley, are making a documentary about their trip to Mashhad, where Beickhorasani will be reunited with his grandmother and extended family.
The best friends (both 24) met in primary school and earlier this year got to talking about what identity means when you grow up in the North.
The conversation convinced them to further explore the theme.
The documentary, supported by Northern Ireland Screen and Bord Scannán na hÉireann, is at this stage untitled. The project itself is called Sherryvallies, a word with Persian roots and inspired by the thick, loose riding trousers worn by gentlemen travelling long distances on horseback.
Originally the pair, their production team and fixers intended to travel to the Middle East across Europe on their motorbikes, but the logistics proved too much of a headache.
Instead, they will fly to Iran, where Reid’s 1981 BMW R65 and Beickhorasani’s 1983 Yamaha XJ650 were waiting. Reid said the two will travel some 1,600km from Tabriz in west Iran through the Iranian mountains to Mashhad in the east.
When you come from the North, Northern Ireland, the Six Counties or Ulster, (among many titles citizens from this part of the world use to describe home), identity can be a tricky talking point, something the region’s sportsmen, such as golfer Rory McIlroy, will confirm.
Beickhorasani’s mother is from east Belfast and his father from Iran, and he said he has always struggled to understand where he fits in.
“The whole idea of this story is very applicable to anyone who is struggling with identity, race or heritage, any sort of aspect of who they are,” he said.
“I have always found it hard to associate with anything here [Northern Ireland].
“A while back I decided I considered myself more European than British or Irish or Northern Irish. When I grew up, there was such a Persian influence on my life, but yet I didn’t know much about Iran. Having that influence in my early life completely detached me from what everyone else was growing up with.”
Reid, a musician and coffee shop worker, feels Northern Irish and hopes the trip to Iran will help him further explore who he is as a person.
“It is going to be not about homelessness but the idea of ‘homelooseness’ and the search for identity,” he said.
“Coming from Northern Ireland, whether you like it or not, we have this real mixed-up identity where we are living on the island of Ireland but ruled from Britain and in this halfway point.”
“I consider myself Northern Irish, but as the world changes and as people travel we are getting more of a mixed sense of identity. And Fabian has the Iranian identity, so we will be exploring that.”
The men are not concerned about their personal safety but concede the road conditions and scorching heat could present problems.
“It’s going to be hot,” Beickhorasani said. “Our biggest worry is heat exhaustion, as it will be around 45 degrees.
“Iran has a high mortality rate on its roads as they don’t have driving licences as such, no MOT system, but I am sure we will cope.”
Added Reid: “The legal engine size for a motorbike in Iran is 250cc and we are going on 650cc bikes, so that should be interesting. They have been customised, reworked and are absolutely beautiful.”
The film-making process begins in August and when complete Reid will return to Belfast and Beickhorasani, an artist, will stay on in Iran to make the most of his first visit.
“I want to spend some proper time with my family and learn the language because that has been a barrier for me in the past,” he said.
“I will be exploring if there is an Iranian identity within me because I wouldn’t really say I have got that. I have a Northern Irish accent, but that name . . . every time I see my name, that big mouthful, I can’t think I am a person from Ireland.”
“It is definitely going to be a rollercoaster,” Reid says.
“The scenery will be magical. It is a once in a lifetime experience. We are being thrown into a foreign land,” Reid said.
“And when we are thrown into those circumstances, we can explore who we are and what we want of life, so it will probably be a big, deep, spiritual adventure.”
The film will be available for digital download, on DVD and on the festival circuit in 2016.
For more information visit sherryvallies.com.