An Emirati written, directed and produced film A Tale of Shadows is set to screen in VOX cinemas across the UAE on August 17.
The feature film is among the few Emirati cinematic projects to make the big screen.
Speaking to Al Arabiya English, upcoming Emirati director and producer Tariq Alkazim explained his inspiration behind the movie and the technicalities involved in producing it.
The movie was inspired from hallucinations Alkazim encountered during a particular stressful period in his life four years ago. Later, he proceeded to bring the world of A Tale of Shadows to life.
Alkazim noted that he had spent a whole year creating background stories for each character. He wanted each of them to be bold and understood individually. “Their history goes all the way back to the 1800’s,” he added.
While most horror or thriller movies focus on scaring the viewer, Alkazim said that he strayed away from the cliché and instead focused on merging drama and mystery, but also maintained the element of fear.
“I really wanted the audience to connect with the characters, to understand the supernatural and the natural person,” he added.
In turn, the director noted that casting was a crucial element. “The characters are really difficult to portray. We needed an actor who could bring the character to life, to understand the character and become it,” said Alkazim.
Touching upon censorship and cultural sensitivity, Alkazim noted that he was well aware of what should be excluded during the scripting stage. Although the movie is set in an Arab country, it does not reflect its culture in terms of context, he added.
The director also touched upon the UAE’s initiatives to help aspiring Emirati film makers and directors. He commended the country’s establishment of “excellent” schools for film and the facilities there.
Simultaneously, the director noted that while the means to pursue filmmaking are abundant, many stories are not being heard. “The problem is with funding. In my opinion, it can simply take anywhere between a million to two million dirhams ($ 272,000 to $500,000) to produce a really good film. But producers are putting 10 to 20 million dirhams, for example, on one film maker, and so many others lose the chance to tell their own story.”
To aspiring film makers and directors, Alkazim has one tip: “Just shoot! Go and shoot! Don’t wait for funding, go ahead and do what you love. If you fail, you have other stories to tell.”
Al Arabiya English also spoke to two of the movie’s lead actors, Chuka Ekweogwu (The Gardener) and Mohammed Al Rikaby, known as Rik Aby (Garet).
Both actors expressed their gratitude to the production company, Madwriter Production, the director’s efforts and the crew for their endless support. They also discussed their experiences in enacting the different characters.
Speaking to Aby, he said that he was most excited about having freedom to add certain elements to the character. He said it really allowed him to live the character, understand it and visualize it.
Talking about filming, the actor said the cast members took “Ninjitsu classes to help build energy and strength.”
According to Aby, this was necessary considering the long shoots under the sun which lasted up to 12 hours at a time.
Moreover, as a Sudanese actor with over 15 years of experience, he shared some words of advice for aspiring actors.
“Never turn down a casting audition in fear of your nationality, you never know you may get called back. Simply show up for your audition, do what you have to do and that’s it,” he said.
The actor must always understand his character’s history and above all be willing to cooperate with the director and cast members, he added.
Similarly, Ekweogwu, a Nigerian actor who’s participated in some of Alkazim’s short films previously, shared his experience playing an emotionally heavy character. “I’m a method actor, so I really separated from my real self, as they call it, to embody my character.”
According to the actor, perhaps the most challenging aspect of the acting process was how emotionally challenging the character was. He revealed that in scenes where he had to cry, he would prep himself for it mentally and physically a day prior.
Ekweogwu’s final message to the audience: “Sit back, relax and enjoy the film. Learn from it, there are so many messages to be learned and don’t forget to look out for The Gardener!”