A chat discussing Bahraini film industry and beyond with film director Mohammed Rashed BuAli.
1) You do directing out of love, and it is not profitable for you as a director, even though you wish one day it would be. What obstacles does a director from the gulf face that prevents him or her from relying fully on directing as a profession? And what challenge of these have you faced personally?
The main obstacle facing the gulf film industry is that it is not well established. There are limited sources of funding and directors have to work from scratch to make a movie. The director has to take care of writing the script or finding a good one, looking for sources of funding, then looking for qualified or professional manpower to work with him or her. Another problem regarding the qualified manpower is that in this region, the world of production is mainly focused around television production, not cinema, which makes it hard to find the required professionals while producing a work for cinema. Another obstacle is the very high market expenses that are faced with little funding sources and a small market. All those obstacles force the director to struggle in balancing the financial and artistic sides of a work.
2) The Bahraini identity is evident in your works and you proudly intend to show it. What do you think sets the Bahraini film industry unique from its counterparts in the gulf? And what are its strengths and weaknesses?
Bahraini identity has its evident uniqueness and style. I believe that if a director wants to reach the international level, he or she should do it through maintaining their unique local identity and focusing on it in their works. This is because people look to know the differences in other cultures while veiwing a work from a different culture, and I focus on these differences as the strength point of my works.
Every country has its own identity, which a director has to emphasize on through the ideas and scripts. By giving information about the cultures, cinema acts like a medium of spreading knowledge that bridges gaps and brings different people from across the world, by stressing on similarities and removing mysteriousness from the unknown other. I believe that cinema in this manner acts as a universal language.
3) What do you believe is your message as an auteur, and what do you think might have control your works that would limit your control as a director over the overall result?
As a director, there is a lot that you want to do, but you are limited by several factors such as the lack of experience in the cinematography field, as well as the lack in the required filming technology. The director will always have an idea but will self-limit his vision by the forced factors, because he has to worry about the budget, the production standards, the time limits, and the location limitation. Even though the overall condition of the gulf film industry is developing over time, we are adapting to our limitations and getting accustomed to them, which can limit our creativity as directors who self-limit themselves. But on the overall, I am optimistic of the local industry’s future.
4) Tell me more about your nominated work, The Sleeping Tree. How does it compare to your previous works? And how did your experience in the previous films reflect on this work?
This will be my first experience in feature-long films, in which I am hoping to put my visions and do all what I could not have done as a director of short films. Even though The Sleeping Tree has a similar theme to that of my previous short films, and will focus on the Bahraini identity like my other works, the movie will have a unique style of story telling. I have worked on the story of the film over the course of 5 years, and it is based on a true story from my life. As I was working on its script, I worked in directing other short films, and the development of the ideas in the script was a result of my accumulating experience. The themes of my works focus mainly on lonliness, and on the introspective side of the characters and how they live within the walls of their own characters. I also focus on how people relate to one another and react to the developmens in their countries. In narrating all of this, I use the poetic narrative style; that is, the I rely on poetic dialogues and subjects, and my short films “The Good Omen,” “Canary,” and “Here is London” are exmples of such style.
5) How do you think IWC Awards and its likes can help the emerging gulf film industry? And do you think the industry gets the sufficient support and recognition it deserves?
IWC awards came in the right time. We as gulf directors needed such initiative especially in the feild of feature films. There have been many short films produced by Gulf directors, but this award gave the gulf directors the trust and opened for them the doors to creat a good feature film that can compete with international productions.
The gulf film industry is supported by sufficient festivals to give it the needed exposure. Moreover, IWC will drive inward the comapnies that are interested in the gulf film industry, and which have belief in it and are willing to support it, and I am quite optimistic of the future of the gulf film industry.
6) You have worked as a producer, a director, and a scriptwriter. How do you think those skills have complemented each other in your skill? Have they come in conflict?
If the director does not understand any of those three aspects, it will be hard for him or her to direct on a movie. As a director, you are a storyteller. If you do not know how to write, you will not be able to tell your story successfully as a movie. On the other hand, if you do not have a background in production, you will not be able to understand and cope with the limitationss you have to work within. Knowledge in feilds related to the film industry other than directing are crucial to any director and complement each other, and without those skills the director will not be able to reach the level of competition in the feild.
7) You’re “professionally a legal investigator and a director by passion.” What brings the two worlds together? And where do you see yourself in the future?
I studied law, and it was of great help to me as a filmmaker. Law taugh me the art of focusing on details, which leads to having better stories, ideas, and elements. Law also gave me alot of experience in organization, details, and the way to view stories and write them. As an investigator, you have privalage to access many stories and know more about people and the way they think and behave. This was like having access to an encyclopdia of information, a privilage my experience in investigation gave me.