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THE GIFT by Shler B Murdochy

Free Cinema School Audience: Can you tell us a bit about the story of this film, and why you chose this topic?

Shler B Murdochy: There are many issues about women’s lives that interest me; so many things that they have to deal with. I always wanted to work with women and to compare their different cultures and lifestyles, the different problems they have. This story revolves around the interaction between two different women who live in London: one who is middle class, and is desperate for a child but cannot have one herself, and another, a refugee with a baby that she cannot afford to care for. Aware of the impossibilities of her situation, the refugee mother decides to leave her own child on the doorstep of the middle class woman’s home. My point was to show that such things actually happen often, but you don’t ever get to hear about them. I am revealing how silent they are. The reality in this film is no one is without problem, as human beings we are always lacking something that we so badly longing for. However, in some cases our needs are as basic as the need for a piece of bread or a shelter, a need for survival but sometimes the need for human interaction is no less important. Sometimes by helping each other we can complete one another as the two women do in this film.

FCSA: How did you manage to finance this film?

SBM: This movie was realised entirely from the passion for film-making of the people around me. I made this movie with only a few hundred pounds, and I generally financed it myself. I filmed all the scenes within one house, primarily due to budget restrictions. We could not afford to film in many places, because of expenses for permissions. There were many people working for free: I had a student cameraman, and we had borrowed technical equipment from their school. The quality of the film is equal to the equipment that we had.

FCSA: How easy or difficult did you find it to market this independent production?

SBM: The marketing is the most difficult part of the whole process! Especially with this kind of story, in which things unravel quite slowly. But I have managed to have it shown in a few festivals, so that has been great.

FCSA: Your film featured two men specifically: one as the rapist of the refugee woman, and another who cheats on his wife repeatedly before leaving her. What was the motivation behind these characters?

SBM: (laughs) I didn’t do it on purpose! I honestly have nothing against men. I just focused the story on the two female protagonists; the men just provide the backdrop. The men in this film one happened to be a smuggler, and as my friend said, you can’t expect more than that of smugglers. The other is an example of thousands of men who have broken relationships with their wives.

FCSA: How did you come to choose short film as your medium?

SBM: Actually, I don’t think I am very good with shorts. I do prefer making features and I have a few feature length scripts, which I have been trying to get funds for in the hope to get them onto the big screen. Last year I have produced a feature film. But I have chosen short because it cost less and it is forgivable to make mistakes, and nobody holds you responsible when it doesn’t get distributed, particularly with this film which was made with a couple of hundreds.

FCSA: Re-watching your film with this audience, what would you change, if anything?

SBM: I would flesh out the relationship between these two women, which I think has infinite nuances. Also making the whole thing less sentimental and emotion seeking because I have criticized other films for that reason myself.

ROJIN by Chiman Rahimi

Free Cinema School Audience: Can you tell us a bit about the story of this film, and why you chose this topic?

Chiman Rahimi: The protagonist of my story, Rojin, is a young Kurdish woman working as a hotel maid in London, who is haunted by her traumatic past from her homeland. Her life seems relatively balanced, until the day that her past literally catches up with her in the foyer of the hotel in which she works. The film reflects on the experiences of many innocent women in Iran who choose to defend freedom. I see things like this, and I want to express them. In this film I particularly wanted to explore the ramifications of torture.

FCSA: Your realisation of Rojin’s trauma was particularly effective; as the audience, we could not see it, but we could definitely feel it. This sets an example for independent Kurdish film-makers, I want to see more female filmmakers!

CH: I am glad that you see this short film as a positive project. I would love to make more films but as we all know, in order to make more films you need both financial support and a great team around you. At the moment I know of a good team, but I have no particular prospects for sponsorship

FCSA: What was the cost of the movie?

CH: It was not cheap, but I did want to have professionals participating. I actually financed it from my personal savings. Maybe next time I should rob a bank! I thought that after postproduction wrapped, the costs would be over; I did not anticipate how much money we would still need just in order to enter the film into festivals! Still, my producer managed to send it to a few places.

FCSA: Why did Rojin, encountering this figure from her past, ultimately not take action, having previously been so committed to revenge?

CH: Sometimes there is a big gap between what you wish to execute, and what you can actually do in reality. For me, as the director of this short film, it was more important to explore the fact that many who have previously acted as oppressors are now walking freely as high ranking diplomats in the streets of London, and all over Europe, and nobody can touch them.

FCSA: Was Rojin’s reason for refraining because, at the moment of action, she saw him with a pregnant woman?

CH: In certain circumstances, I believe, it is in fact more difficult to forgive than it is to revenge. The pregnant woman whom Rojin glimpsed is a symbol, she diverts Rojin’s attention from her course of action and returns her to her past.

FCSA: Yes, your film contained a great deal of symbolism. What does she represent to you, this woman who decided not to take revenge?

CH: She represents a lot of people who are forced to live in exile and adapt to a new country; who go on to build new lives, but who are ultimately unable to leave behind issues from their past. I really tried to display the frustration of these lingering burdens more than anything else. Ready to revenge, Rojin stalks her target, literally her burden- she is absolutely ready to let go of all that she has built – but when she sees the pregnant woman, she is finally able to release her burden.

FCSA: If you had a chance to revisit this project, what would you change?

CH: I would have spent more time choosing the people that I work with. I would get to know them better, and I would make sure that they are happy and capable of doing the things that I want to achieve. Also, I would definitely set aside extra money for sending the project on to film festivals.

FCSA: I think there are so many issues to discuss in this movie; it is appropriate for this intimate setting, rather than a big screening after which people just leave without saying a word.

CH: I agree. I’d love to come back here, it would be great to discuss more next time about how to rob the bank …