Super.Full. Stories – Day 8: Inside the Jungle (Part 1)

We arrived in Zanzibar. The MAISHA Program Director and our van driver welcomed us. The director explained few things about what to expect and the schedule ahead of us, and off we went in the small van. He drove on narrow streets with low story buildings on both sides. It was like driving in any village in an Arab country. Except for the much greener, denser and higher trees.

But soon we started leaving the residential areas and arrived to a more vegetated territory, until the van stopped in a heavenly resort. It was like the places we see in honeymoon package advertisements. But it was real. And calm. The first thought that came to my mind when we arrived was this is a dream location for writing.

The Resort
The Resort

We had been warned before our departure from Doha that we needed to get anti-Malaria injections and a mosquito repellant. The pharmacist at Villaggio had then given Fatma a mosquito repellant for children because that was the only repellant he had, so we brought it along. We also knew to expect geckos. I am not the type of people who can pretend to be comfortable if I know I am living with a gecko. But we had promised ourselves, each other, and Ama to be brave.

Each one of us was assigned a bungalow. The bungalow consisted of a bedroom and a bathroom. They were nice and cool on the inside. The beds were beautifully decorated with nets dangling down from the roof to protect the sleepers from insects. Though that is a good thing, reverse psychology used it to assure me that there are insects. When I unloaded my luggage, I thought better than to disperse it in various places in the room so I only took out the shoes and kept all the clothes in my suitcase and kept it locked.

After every one of us checked her bungalow, the three of us girls decided that we’ll use one of them as a bedroom. Each one of us didn’t want to sleep alone in there. My daydreams included lions and giraffes. But the reality was different. It included, but was not limited to, insects in the bathroom, two scorpions in the room, few geckos that we got accustomed to live with slowly, and flying roaches.

As we were intent on keeping the courageous impression, we fought bravely against all these creatures on our own. Okay, it was not me or Fatma who did the actual battle, we were on the bed or jumping around far from the action, but still. And one time we had to ask the help of Qassim, our friend who lived very close to Mount Kili,  who had also come to the workshop with a very compelling story. But we fought and survived! Until the day of the red scorpion.

The red scorpion could be deadly according to Ama. And if our African fighter said that, then we had to report the incident to the program director. Our huge surprise came when we learnt that all the bungalows are clean of all kinds of insects, and we’re the only ones who had a zoo in there. And the solution was very simple, Solayman, the keeper of the resort came and sprayed it again. You can imagine how stupid we felt after all that struggle to save face when we could’ve simply asked for the room to be sprayed. Truth is, we had tried using the RAID in the room and our mosquito repellant, but the insects seemed to enjoy them more than anything.

Afterwards (5 days later) it became normal to enter the bathroom with a gecko in there, to put sugar with ants in the tea, to share the food with the crows out by the Indian Ocean. We were living it, the African way. And it is an experience not to be missed.

To Be Continued!

Watch Super.Full. and Vote for it in Youtube’s Your Film Festival at this link:

http://www.youtube.com/user/yourfilmfestival?x=player/v-oUhQc4AVU__en_us

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Super.Full. Stories – Day 2: How the Station Manager Ended up a Female

One of the secondary characters whom I dramatically needed in the film was that of the Station Manager.

When Hania, one of my female friends in Doha, knew that we need someone to play a Petrol Station Manager, she said she’d love to do it. I also liked the idea of having a female manager of the Petrol Station in the film, regardless of the fact that you would never find a female manager of a petrol station in Qatar. In the world of my film it would’ve played very well. I have an aunt here in Beirut who has been managing a plumbing business for decades now, and I always find her character and job fascinating.

BUT, everybody talked me into not getting a female to play the Station Manager. And then, when we actually went to the Station to obtain permission to film there, the Manager asked if he can act. Fatma, my friend and producer, was the one who talked to him. And Fatma is a very sweet person. And Fatma said YES! We actually need a station manager. So that was one problem down the drain.

Filming day came. It was Ramadan (fasting month) and we were filming at the station from noon till sunset. In a temperature of at least 50 Degrees Celsius in the sun (122 F). And on top of that it was a Friday, weekend in Qatar. The manager didn’t show up. Simply. He wasn’t answering his phone, none of the workers knew where or how to find him otherwise. We had to find a plan B, asap!

None of the boys on set fit the bill really. So my first thought was to call Hania, who had originally showed interest. I called and asked Hania if she’d like to come and act, like, right away -these things always happen. But she was outside Doha and she needed hours to be back. Out of the question.

It was thennnn, that I looked at Fatoom, my producer. She was the last refuge. And I think she knew what I thought before I had to ask. Fatma was pretty practical about it and she directly said, “Ok, what do I have to do?” I love Fatoom. She saved us from a silly situation that day, and she ended up doing a pretty good job actually. What do you think?

You can watch Super.Full. here and vote for it if you like it: http://www.youtube.com/yourfilmfestival

Super.Full. Stories – Day 1: Chronicles of a short film

December 2010 was not the happiest December in my life. I had been suffering from a tennis shoulder injury for years by then, and chose to leave the comfort of my Doha luxurious life to the chaotic life of an indie filmmaker in Beirut. After five years of independence I was now coming back to my parents house. Mostly because that is a good way not to starve as an independent filmmaker. I didn’t have a job at the time and I wasn’t looking. But I had a plan: Rewrite my feature film and make it (NB: that is something NOT as easily done as thought).

My best friends from older days mostly live and work abroad. My sisters had all gotten married in my years of expatriat-ism. I am an introvert. You get the gist.

The doctor diagnosed my shoulder with a rotator cuff tear and December was operation month. And operation meant an arm sling for twelve weeks, limited movement, and physiotherapy. Stuck at home, my physiotherapist doctor becoming my only friend, I spent almost all of December and January researching festivals I could send Super.Full. to.

My festival search included: First find the festivals that the film qualifies for, second check the festival requirements, third write the festivals asking for fee waivers using my exotic location and film story/theme/etc… (whatever worked really), fourth wait for responses, fifth send the film and whatever needed material… In short, it is a pain in the butt process perfect for a bed ridden jobless filmmaker (if you find one, grab them!)

I was being ambitious and a bit over-confident. But sometimes that helps. I looked up the process by which short films qualify for Oscar Nominations (If you’re a filmmaker you know you wanna do that -if you haven’t already). I wrote down the festival names and looked them all up then chose some. Then I started submitting based on the results of the painful procedure above. I had to wait few months and receive multiple rejections from known and unknown film festivals.

But I knew rejection is part of the process. My graduate school teachers are to thank for that -mostly. All I need is one YES. And the Yes came! After a long time, on the morning of Wednesday, March 30th 2011, but it came. It was an email from a Mr. Dan Doody and it was not a hoax! It was from the Academy Award Qualifying Seattle International Film Festival, the largest film festival in the United States of America no less. And they wanted to screen Super.Full.

And the first thing that came to my mind when I read the email was, “Oh. The film must be good after all”.

That was our first yes, and then there were more “Yes”s and more “No”s. But the first yes is where the festival stories started. And they still have not ended for this short film made with passion and dedication of a beautiful group of people.

Today, you can support Super.Full. on Your Film Festival : A vote a day can make this filmmaker’s dream come true!

And tune in here to read a new story about Super.Full.’s journey every day.

SIFF Super.Full. Invitation
SIFF Super.Full. Invitation