Yassmina Karajah, also a UBC student like our last interviewee Lucas Hrubizna, has recently made her directorial debut with the film, Light. This short film revolves around a man named Omar who must deal with performing a religious pre-burial ritual as directed by his mother for the death of his stillborn child. While weaving a tale of mourning, personal struggle, and loss, the film has captivated the minds of many at both the Vancouver International Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival.
Christine Kim got to catch up with Yassmina before her final showing of Light at VIFF 2014 and discuss her vision for the film.
Christine: What should our readers expect from the film before going in to watch and what are the main concepts this film revolves around?
Yassmina: Expect a heavy documentation of personal struggle and mourning that is stripped down to the simplest and most intimate moments.
The film at it’s core revolves around grief, alienation and the need for connection in times of loss. However, it has a religious and cultural context to it that was inspired by my choice of immigration and wanting to explore that decision from different dimensions.
C: What inspired you to create a film about such a heavy topic as that of the death of child?
Y: This was inspired by something my extended family went through years ago which involved the death of a child. Being there to witness the effect that event had on family members left a deep impression on me as a child back then. It was the way the fathers in my family dealt with death that I found compelling, as it revolved around solutions and an assumption of responsibility as a means to avoid the process of mourning. This made me want to focus on the mourning of fathers specifically.
C: What themes and motifs are most evident throughout the film?
Y: Predominantly themes of home and death; I wanted the viewers to experience what the death of a loved one would feel like away from all that is familiar. Although the film is packed with themes, it mostly focuses on a character-driven plot.
C: This film has been featured in both TIFF and now VIFF. How surprised or unsurprised are you at this film’s incredible success?
Y: I am humbled and thankful for the film’s success, getting to be part of such festivals allows you to meet filmmakers with provoking visions. It was a sweet celebration for the team and myself after all the work we had put into the film. However, it was not an active goal that I plotted and thus, this success came as a great surprise.
I had one main goal throughout pre-production and production which was to explore the most powerful way to tell this story, and to challenge myself as a filmmaker throughout the process. It was also important to invite people to find something personal for them in the project. For me, that’s when the best collaboration happen.
C: Light, if I am correct, is your directorial debut. How does it feel to have made your debut as a film director and what goals do you feel you have yet to accomplish?
Y: It feels exciting and fulfilling to have made this film. The process of creating something and having it materialize into what you’ve envisioned is the best part. It was a lot of trial and error though since it was my first experience, and there’s something really great about learning actively by creating rather than by reading or studying.
I want to continue making films about stories and themes that I love. What I find most fulfilling is telling stories in a way that push the envelope both substantively and formally. Such films have uncompromising visions and directional choices.
C: So, everyone’s really wondering it. What’s your favourite film?
Y: I don’t think I can choose only one film! I would say Bergman’s “Persona”, Elia Sulieman’s “The Time That Remains” and Asghar Farhadi’s “A Separation”.
C: What initially made you want to enter the film industry?
Well, right after high school I attended law school, but I think while living in Jordan I was constantly around news and the news culture which made me want to pursue documentary filmmaking and journalism. Film was always a passion of mine , however, with the heartbreaking political situation in my region I decided that I wanted to belong to the legal world that provided the practical solutions to end those injustices. But, deep down, I knew that my true passion is cinema and was too passionate about telling those stories from a personal perspective so I pursued film after finishing law school.
It’s crazy how powerful film can be in creating the most important kind of change; the change of mindsets and perspectives.
For more details on the film as well as on the film director, Yassmina Karajah, check out the official website for Light.