A film directed by a Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar (VCUarts Qatar) faculty member, Maysaa Almumin, will be screened at Doha Film Institute’s (DFI) Ajyal Film Festival, next week.
Almumin, an assistant professor at the Qatar Foundation partner-university, scripted and directed the film titled Bint Werdan in Arabic, also known as J’ai le Cafard in French. The film received funding from the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture, and DFI, in addition to an exploratory research grant from VCUarts Qatar.
The quirky film touches on the topic of mental health. Almumin says the film highlights the fact that mental health concerns such as depression are not triggered only by incidental tragedies or crises in human lives; often depression encroaches quietly, stays unrecognised, and hence untreated.
"Bint Werdan is a surreal film about a woman who struggles with depression – until she meets a cockroach in the office toilet,” says Almumin. “The ensuing encounters with the cockroach first become her saving grace, and later, the source of her angst.
“I was compelled to write the script after making a particular observation on a common misconception that depression can only be set off by tragic or overwhelming events. While that is true in a lot of cases, it is not the rule. At times, the condition is hard to recognise, and easily dismissed both by those who suffer from it, and by those around them."
The faculty member, who has a background in architecture and teaches space research studio at VCUarts Qatar, has been focusing on film and set design for the last four years – experience she put to good use when it came to designing the props and set of the film.
"There is substantial design work that goes into making a film,” she notes. “Right from the onset, I knew this film project would require specific and bespoke design solutions for the challenges involved. For this reason, I directed a larger part of the funding to the art department of the film which includes set design, prop making, wardrobe and special effects makeup."
One of the characters in the film is a giant cockroach. Almumin chose to make a human-size model than use computer generated imagery– for a reason. Some of the scenes in the film take place in an office, requiring the setting and props for these visuals to be designed and built from the ground up.
“The design of the space had to present a visually believable environment,” says the VCUarts Qatar faculty. “This meant paying attention to everything from constructing the interior, to branding the fictitious company and its stationary, all with the intent of serving the narrative of the story.”
The film will be screened at DFI’s Ajyal Fim Festival 2020 from November,19 to 23, across DFI’s online Virtual Festival, DFI’s Drive-in Cinema and at Vox Cinema theatres.
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