Mohammed Obaidullah talks about film “When Jackie meets Saleh”

When Jackie meets Saleh is a film about Saleh a the leader of the Muslim community at his university, who advises his friends to avoid relationships with the opposite sex. However, when Jackie comes to him to clear some misconceptions, he realizes he can’t get her out of his mind.

The film is directed by Mohammed Obaidullah who is a director, producer, actor and the co-founder of a film production firm called Smart Penguin Productions. He has worked on four shorts while studying at the Vancouver Film School. It has been selected in the Students Short Competition of the 6th Edition of the Gulf Film Festival.

Tell us about your film.

I wanted to do this film for a long time. It is actually based on a lot of stories that I heard from my friends and colleagues. Mostly of people living in Canada but originally from the Gulf countries. Especially if you come from a country like mine, Saudi Arabia it is very conservative and when people travel to other countries it is difficult for them to get used to the society. So this love story draws the fine line between things that are okay within the religion but not okay with the religious people. My film is about love and love is a natural human feeling it doesn’t see religion, color, or race. It is very universal feeling and that is why I choose it for my film.

What challenges did you face while scripting the film?

When you are talking about a story like this, you have to be very careful while talking about religion. As a person who was born and raised in a conservative environment I know what the religion says and what it does not say so I can draw a line between the two. Many people who do not know about the religion often confuse religion with culture and want to show that it is not the same. I spent a lot of time thinking and researching in fact the film ends with a quote from Prophet Muhammad which means, ‘Nothing is greater for lovers than marriage.’  So this shows that love is essential for marriage.

Was the name of the film inspired from the movie “When Harry met Sally”, because it sounds so similar?

It is funny actually I was with my writing instructor and I was thinking of what to name the story and I named the main character Saleh, which means a pious man which suits the character and Jackie I just put it there, I asked my instructor whether I should change it but he said the name suited the character of a tough women. So I asked him whether I should name it When Jacky met Saleh because I was remembering When Harry met Sally but it was a joke but my instructor really liked it. It was a good thing because a lot of people are interested in the movie because they like the name and they are able to associate it with the other film. But when converted to Arabic it sounded too long and it does not associate itself with something famous like in English so i just named it Saleh.

How has the audience responded to the film?

When I screened the film in Canada the response is different than when I screen it here. This is because the film has cultural background, In Canada people see the movie as an intellectual conflict more than a love story while people here see it as love story. It is interesting because people here know what he is talking about, for example she asks him “do you pray five times a day? “Yes, I pray five times a day.” he says, this is something we all know about here but in Canada people are like why do they pray five times and day and it is something they have to think about. Also the definition of love in the Arabian countries is different from the that of the west and since the movie from an eastern perspective they audience don’t see it as a love story.

Lastly tell me about your experience at the Gulf Film Festival.

In this festival I have seen a lot of filmmakers from my country Saudi Arabia where we don’t have festivals like but we have a lot of films because we like making films, everybody likes making films. We don’t have the opportunity to share these films, to get critiqued, to get feedback, to know how to improve our films so having something like that here will move everything forward and help everyone associated with it.

By Syeda Nawab Fathima

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