From Abu Dhabi to the red carpet, a pair of NYU Abu Dhabi graduates are going to Cannes International Film Festival this month to show their capstone film projects. Adam, directed by Amani Alsaied, and Lost in Escapade, directed by Beso Turazashvili, were both accepted into Short Film Corner at Cannes, a networking and development initiative for aspiring filmmakers.
How Lost in Escapade Was Found
When Georgian Beso Turazashvili, NYUAD Class of 2014, came to NYU Abu Dhabi from Russia to study economics, he could never have predicted a storyline that would see him and his capstone project invited to one of the most prestigious gatherings in the world for moviemakers, Cannes International Film Festival.
"I took a film class in my freshman year and loved it. I always loved film and I had done painting and photography before but I never considered it as a profession." Until now.
Turazashvili's capstone Lost in Escapade makes its official world debut this month at Cannes Short Film Corner as part of the Cannes Court Metrage initiative that recognizes the work of up-and-coming filmmakers.
It's a 15-minute psychological drama about two people whose relationship is tested when they get lost in the UAE desert.
"I had a story to tell and collaborated with a great writer from Georgia, Alexandre Lordkipanidze. We started thinking about it a year before we started shooting."
The script went through several rounds of feedback and changes. Pre-production and filming started in the fall of his senior year and brought many challenges. Wrangling together a crew from all over the world was probably the biggest hurdle, he recalls. Unlike New York, actors and film professionals aren't readily available for work in Abu Dhabi.
"We had people flying to the UAE from the US, Russia, Canada and Georgia, including leading actors.”
"I remember the boom mic operator didn't arrive, so I asked a freshman who was taking film at NYUAD to join the crew. I was looking for someone who was active and able to use the equipment right away. It was her first job."
The film was screened at NYUAD at a Capstone festival in April 2014. Since then, it has undergone a post-production transformation and was successfully added to the roster of films in Short Film Corner at Cannes, a place where filmmakers network, show their work, and make decisive steps for their future careers.
"Cannes has been my ultimate goal because they support filmmakers just starting out. It's a platform to make connections and get inspired."
The next scene in Turazashvili's promising film career has yet to be written but whatever happens, he knows it's a tough industry to crack when you're young and already committed to a full-time job. He is currently employed as a strategist at a Dubai-based consultancy firm where technical and creative projects allow him to apply his double major in economics and film.
“To become a director you have to work on everything, even being a coffee boy. That's how you get into the industry and get to know people. Then someday, at some point, you can show that you can do more than just deliver coffee."
Lost in Escapade had its national premiere at Tbilisi Film Festival in Georgia and European premiere at EuroFest in Spain where it won two prizes: best cinematography and best original music.
After Cannes, Turazashvili plans to take the film to several festivals in the US, Spain, and England.
Salaam Q&A with Adam Director Amani Alsaied
Adam, a seven-minute short film about the human cost of the conflict in Syria, began as a capstone film project at NYU Abu Dhabi and will have its world premiere during the Cannes festival May 13-25.
The Arabic language film, inspired by real people, follows the story of a fictional character named Adam whose life and family are forever changed by the war.
What was your inspiration for this film?
The film was born to understand a Syrian family who was torn by crisis. I met a refugee Syrian woman in Qatar in the summer 2011. She showed me photos of her kid, she had a gorgeous little boy. By way of being kind I said, as Arabs say, "May God let him grow by your side." The woman then looked at me and told me he was killed in Syria a month ago. Adam is about a moment of loss in Syria. It's about the people. It's about the humanity.
What role did NYUAD play?
The whole film department was incredibly supportive. My mentor Joanne Savio was my guide and support system throughout the rewrites, production, and post-production.
Adam is about a moment of loss in Syria. It's about the people. It's about the humanity.
She is always incredibly patient and giving, both to the film, and to me. The head of the film department, Scandar Copti was amazingly supportive, especially through the difficult casting and post production processes. My classmates and crew members were like a little army who believed in telling a story about family and love, which meant a lot to me, and affected the film tremendously.
What are your hopes or goals at Cannes?
First and foremost, I'm hoping that Adam will generate conversation about the affected families in Syria, and that it will create some awareness on the details of the personal Syrian tragedies occurring under the accumulation of news footage. I also hope to meet other young filmmakers who are keen on exploring difficult and sensitive topics in a humanitarian and respectful approach.