variety ARABIA I AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2011
P E O P L E
FORMULA FOR SUCCESS
mussab ag talks to variety arabia about his first mystery thriller, “the traveller”, and the ups and downs that came with it
BAdAr i. sAlem – duBAi
Filmmaking was not an obvious career choice. He studied photography and music and has been working in the media industry for almost eight years now. But Mussab Abdel Ghafour, or Mussab AG, 26, was always fascinated with films and filmmaking. For him, cinema beautifully blends different magical combinations of sight and sound, creating a world of fantasy and hope.
“I was bitten by the film bug early on and visuals have always interested me. I always wanted to be able to tell stories with vivid, colourful, multi- faceted characters using pictures and sound,” says AG, who is a big fan of English director Ridley Scott and “Lord of the Rings” director Peter Jackson. “They both have an extraordinary ability to create worlds and genres in their movies, which always have a profound effect on me.”
A filmmaker’s first feature film is usually a project of passion, to which he devotes all his time and energy to make it the best film of his nascent career. This certainly seems to be the case for AG. His first mystery-thriller film, “The Traveller”, was selected at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival Short Film Corner (SFC) – a good start for a first-time filmmaker. “It was such a rewarding moment when I [found out] my very first film had been selected at Cannes SFC. It was a great impetus to me to keep going and I hope it will be
Musab AG’s first mystery-thriller film, “The Traveller”, was selected at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival Short Film Corner
to anyone who dreams of becoming a filmmaker.”
The way AG talks about “The Traveller” makes you want to watch it. He may be young, but the knowledge he has of human vulnerabilities, fears, doubts and the uncertainties in our minds and hearts is pretty striking.
There is only one character in the film; the other character was created from the main character’s inner voice, his doubts and fears. Both characters collide in the film. “By showing the conflict between the main character and his other-self, we were able to show other emotions, from revenge to love, guilt and doubt. We don’t show all of this in the film, we just hint at it.
“I won’t say that the main character is 100 per cent good or bad; there is no black and white. The character struggles between both. I want the audience to decide.”
AG likes to refer to himself as “we," as he believes the film is a collective achievement. By “we” he refers to the scriptwriter Peter Mitchell, the screenwriter Dominic Carver, the lead actor UAE-based Ibrahim Renno and the cinematographer Jack Elliot, among others.
AG notes that the film script was originally a three-page story idea from Peter Mitchell. Dominic Carver then worked extensively on the script, making it longer, more twisted and mysterious.
“We kept working on the script until the night of the shoot; all of the team was on the same track when it came to how we wanted the film to look. They all deserve a big thank you and much credit for their work on the film.” Despite having a supportive and talented team, AG had to overcome many challenges while putting the film together.
“Shooting the whole movie, including the stunt shots, over one night in adverse weather conditions was a big risk,” he acknowledges. “I had to take care of almost 30 crew members, as well as some technical issues, and make sure we wrapped the film before dawn. We had to postpone the shoot three times due to logistical problems. I also had to give up so many ideas due to time and budget constraints.”
The film, which was shot near Fujairah in the UAE – “a surreal place with beautiful mountains”, as AG puts it – had a budget of almost US$13,000 and was self-financed. Regarding the decision to make his first film in English, AG has one direct answer:
“I wanted to emphasise the story and emotions and take out the language element. Besides, the screenplay was originally written in English, and having it in English will help promote it at international film festivals.”
Asked about what he wants his audiences to walk away with after watching “The Traveller”, he replies: “I always try to balance between these two goals – good entertainment and a good concept. I want the audience to go out with both. The story is like a shape made by dots and I leave it to the audience to connect them.”
AG is currently working on a short and a feature film, both of which are in the drama/thriller genre and being written by UK-based Dominic Carver. For him, the journey into the wonders of cinema has just started.