Sameer Arif is a Saudi filmmaker who has worked on several TV commercials and documentaries and his film credits include Hard Way, Challenge and Eyes Without Soul. He also directed MBC’s TV series I’m Sorry, Hello and Devil’s Game. Read our interview with Sameer as we caught up with him to talk about his film, Sada (Echo) that has been selected in the Gulf Features category at this year’s festival.
1. Tell us about your film.
The film is about a deaf and mute couple who communicate with everyone else through their son, who unlike them is physically normal. The son soon starts to feel embarrassed by his parents and wants to leave home and become independent. A series of incidents than slowly make change his plans and understand his parents better.
2. Why did you select this script to work with?
What made this script unique was that whenever movies are made in regard to a disability it is always the child who suffers and the parents have to learn to deal with it but in this story it is the parents who are affected and the child is facing the problem of dealing with them and the society.
3. When you do a film that portrays people with a handicap what kind of research do you have to do ?
There is a lot of research involved, I had to learn about the sign language and I had to get a teacher to teach the actors about it. The actors had to go through the process of learning the language and using it to express their feelings. Most importantly I had to learn with how people with disability dealt with their daily life routines for example how do they know someone is ringing their bell so their is a light in every room that blinks and they know that someone is at the door.
4. According to you how has the Gulf Film Festival evolved over the years?
If you watch the movies which were screened in the initial years of the festival and the current films there is a big difference in terms of quality, ideas and in technical aspects. the festival is doing a favor to filmmakers in the gulf region and I think in the coming years we will see better and better films.
5. What are the most common obstacles for a filmmaker in the Middle East?
Firstly their is no money, funding is difficult as there is no way of getting your money back. In Saudi Arabia finding permissions to shoot is very difficult. We also face difficulty in finding good actors, even if you find them they may again cost a lot of money. The technical team must be good and everyone must be willing to work together.
By Syeda Nawab Fathima