I left my heart in Cannes

Cannes is even more than what i expected it to be. A gigantic industry, a bee hive. So many things to do, from networking to watching movies to attending workshops…

The Short Film Corner is a platform where business and art merge together, and allows you to sharpen your business acumen and marketing skills in a very steep curve. You really have to put forward your differentiating factor in order to distinguish yourself and try to attract distributors, buyers or industry professionals that would be interested in distributing your current project or financing your next one.

It was for me an amazing opportunity, since it enabled me to meet so many great filmmakers from all around the globe, to promote my film among elite distributors, agencies and television chains, to pitch my ideas to producers there and to attend a wide range of master classes and conferences. One of the most interesting one in my opinion was the conference given by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, the winner of the Palme d’Or in 2010 for “Uncle Boonmee”.

« A Separation »

If you have not seen yet the movie « A Separation », I highly recommend it. It is by far the best movie of the year in my opinion, and its Oscar is well-deserved.

is a 2011 Iranian drama film written and directed by Asghar Farhadi. It won this year the 84th Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, becoming the first Iranian film to win the award.

The movie revolves around a couple -Nader and Simin- who have been married for 14 years and live with their 11-year-old daughter in Tehran. The woman wants to leave the country with her husband and daughter, as she does not want their daughter to grow up under the oppressive political situtation. However, the husband does not have the same vision, since he would like to remain in Iran to take care of his elderly father, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. When Nader decides to stay in Iran, Simin files for divorce.

Here is a review by Lee Marshall that appeared in the Screen Daily that I found particularly interesting:

“Showing a control of investigative pacing that recalls classic Hitchcock and a feel for ethical nuance that is all his own, Farhadi has hit upon a story that is not only about men and women, children and parents, justice and religion in today’s Iran, but that raises complex and globally relevant questions of responsibility, of the subjectivity and contingency of ‘telling the truth’, and of how thin the line can be between inflexibility and pride – especially of the male variety – and selfishness and tyranny.”

Shooting the movie «Saudade »

This post will describe how the shooting of my movie Saudade took place, with all its challenges, misadventures and surprises.

Step 1: Writing

I started writing the script during summer 2010. It took me about 1 year to take the film from ink on paper to concretize it to reality. Writing was a challenging process, because I had to show each draft version I wrote to about 10-15 persons at least, who are all experts in their field, and who would each give me a constructive feedback or guideline that i would follow, and eventually the mold was formed. Now the beauty about this whole writing process is that it is very inquisitive, and it enables you to dig deep into yourself and your past in order to find something that has left an impact or a scar in your heart. Because I can assure you that evry scriptwriter writes something about himself in his scenario, and there is always a hint of autobiography in it.

Step 2: Team Building

Now that I had a script in hand with a plot, a climax-driven story and an evolution of characters, I had to cast the actual actors that were going to play those characters. And this was not a difficult task: i knew already Mounia Akl and Cyril Aris, 2 professional actors/writers/directors, and Yasmina Hatem, a childhood friend. When she was 16-years old, Yasmina had been affected by the death of her mother who was fighting cancer, and cancer happened to be the main theme of my movie. So I decided immediately to cast her as the lead actress, as this would not only serve as a catharsis for her, but also reflect very realistically on her acting on screen. The main actor was a whole other story, because i cast 4 different persons before coming up with someone sufficiently credible for the role (age-wise).  I built the whole cast & crew from afar, prior my arrival to Lebanon. And this was the most challenging part, because when you are doing logistics from abroad, it is hard to make people commit to your project, especially professionals in that field, because they could have other projects coming up for them at the last minute.

Step 3: Pre-production- Meetings, meetings, and… meetings

Pre-production was a real hassle, because as soon as I arrived to Lebanon, we had to arrange meetings with the whole crew, both individually or as a group. Tasks were delegated to each team, be it sound, production, cinematography, art direction, etc… And they included: establishing a detailed budget, reaching out for sponsors, choosing the camera movements, defining the cinematographic language of the movie, its mood / atmosphere, color palette. Then the next step was to sit down with the AD (Assistant Director) to make the decoupage, which is like a written storyboard, detailing all the aspects of the scenes shot by shot, with the sounds, camera movements, and so on. The next step in the process included establishing a work plan, i.e. doing a schedule including when / where each scene was going to be shot. The call sheet was detailing all the contact info of people from the crew, especially the actors, so that the AD could call them while we are on set to tell them to come prior to a scene.

Step4: Production

The shooting itself was a lot of fun. And very magical. I felt many times that it was a bit surreal, that I was floating on a cloud. Everything happened so fast, it was just 4 days of shooting, from 6 am till sometimes midnight. We worked intensive hours, but it was very productive, and eventually we were all very satisfied of the result. I loved so many things during this shoot: I loved the teamwork, the fact that we were all together to accomplish a project and follow our dreams. I loved the fact that there were so many improvs in my movie. I was very lucky because i had such amazing actors, and they were all so natural and brilliant in their acting and improvisation that it added a lot of humor, simplicity and realism to the picture. I loved the rush of having to choose the accessories in art direction and putting them in place quickly, before te DOP and his team starts the lighting. I loved how the words Action and Cut could have such a strong impact and draw the line between reality and fiction. I loved the fact that after 4 days of continuous shooting, we were all so exhausted and dead, but yet so happy, satisfied and proud of our new accomplishment. I loved saying the sentence Its a wrap, on the last day of shooting at midnight, even though there was a pinch in my heart because i never wanted this to end. I wanted it to last forever… But unfortunately, every good thing has an end.

You can watch and share the trailer on Youtube at the following link: www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7G34Zzc-Xe.

Like the page on Facebook called « Saudade » in order to follow the news for festivals, screenings, pictures of the shooting, plot description and so on, by clicking on the following link: http://www.facebook.com/saudademovie

 

 

 

 

Saudade

« Saudade » is the title of my new movie. As I had mentionned in my previous post, I have written, directed and produced a short film last summer in Lebanon, and the trailer has just been released last week-end. It features Cyril Aris & Mounia Akl, Yasmina Hatem & Malek Rizkallah, Nabil Ghorayeb, Mona Fakhry and Thomas Chelhot. Assistant Director: Nicolas Cardahi, DOP: Marc Abiad, Sound: Melissa Karam, Music: Barnabas Folk, Ivan Folk and Milan Kuli, Art Direction: Mirella Salameh and Mounia Akl.

You can watch and share the trailer on Youtube at the following link: www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7G34Zzc-Xe.

You can also visit the page on Facebook called « Saudade » in order to follow the news for festivals, screenings, pictures of the shooting, plot description and so on, by clicking on the following link: www.facebook.com/saudademovie

Hope you enjoy it ! Comments and feedback are welcome.

Synopsis of the movie:

The story unfolds in Beirut in 2003. Two couples, two divergent destinies: one spiraling upwards, the other downwards. Leila and Nabil have been together for two years, and the stars seem to be aligned for them. They are both rising actors full of dreams and aspirations, and they have all life lying in front of them to accomplish them. Their friends, Hala and Kamal, are experiencing the ups and downs of married life. Deeply in love, they each have their own passion: the former is a writer, the latter a photographer attracted to the sea since his childhood. A couple whose love cannot be spared by the tricks of fate manipulating them. Caught in a dilemma, the woman finds herself trapped in a whirlwind of guilt, apprehension, and eventually undertakes a decision that she is not close of forgetting.

My 5 favorite – ‘Winter Holiday’ Movies

With the winter break right around the corner, I’d like to share with you my 5 favorite ‘winter holiday’ movies.

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