24/04/2012

In Amman, Suhad Khatib and Azza Hourani prepare The Building

At Med Film Factory’s Independent Film Assembly on the Red Sea, the director and producer told Euromed Audiovisual more about a film centered around the diverse inhabitants of a building in Amman

Grant Project Activities, Jordan

When asked about her current film project, scriptwriter and director Suhad Khatib starts with a quote from its award-winning script: “All buildings are the same, baby sister. Amman is one big building. But this is the building our mother once lived in.” 

“When the Royal Film Commission held a writing contest in 2005 to find the best Jordanian story about Amman and make it into a film, I was not a full-time filmmaker, but I always thought that the weird things that my neighbours come up with were well worth being in a film, so I started writing.”

“The three page synopsis I presented for the competition won first prize out of 300 submissions. A few years later, the first draft of the script was selected for the Rawi Screenwriters’ Lab, but by then I had made six shorts, had been on many film sets, had professional filmmaking training, and an obsession with cinema that had become my full-time profession.”

“So I started making my neighbours’ every move my business.” 

“This script is more personal to me than any other script I have written so far. From the dog, to the love story, via the elevator, I am writing about things and people I know well, “ she explains. “It makes it easy for me to translate all this emotionally and visually while remaining entertaining.”

“I wish to make a beautiful film that I can dedicate to the great women in my life and to the most amazing city I have ever lived in, Amman. The Building is one of many stories I have in me about home. Being the daughter of a refugee makes home an evolving, lingering, and inspiring word.”

Suhad has produced and directed six short films that were screened in prestigious festivals worldwide. She is the head writer and co-creator of Bath Bayakha, a television comedy show currently premiering on the Orbit television network. She has also written The Final Lullaby, which is in development.

The Building won the Best Jordanian Story Competition. It has taken part in the EAVE Professional Producer Coaching Program, Rawi Screenwriters’ Lab, the Dubai Film Connection, and Med Film Factory. It was shortlisted for the Shasha Development Grant in 2011. 

The film’s producer, Azza Hourani, is equally as enthusiastic: 

“In a region where cinema is still young, people are thirsty for stories that represent them. I believe that The Building tells many stories of Amman, the Middle East, and the world. With its diverse characters, cultural and religious backgrounds and topics, The Building is a story like no other.”

“When I read the script for the first time in June 2011, I felt overpowering nostalgia. The script made me feel more at home than my current home and I was convinced that this project had to come to life because of the strength of its emotions, its lies, and its ties.”

“This is the story of families from all over the Middle East who all live in the same building: Jordanian, Palestinian, Iraqi, Lebanese, Egyptian, and Syrian: about their relationships, the gossip going round, childhood and the strange side of Amman, but it also deals with a taboo: a love story between a Christian and a Muslim.” 

“The fact that the writer is also the director of this project makes it, in my opinion, even more strong emotionally, cinematically and narratively.”

“Suhad Khatib is passionate about her project and her vision of it, as a result of her involvement with the characters, the building, Amman, and the details that make the story. As a Jordanian filmmaker, it is time to speak of the hidden and discuss social affairs in both a dramatic and comical manner.” 

Azza showed interest in filmmaking at a very young age. Her passion became practical when she took part in a workshop organized by Royal Film Commission and the University of Southern California (USC) in 2007, and directed her first short film One Day through the USC programme. Since then, she has worked on several short films in many positions from assistant director to producer, and from editor to camera operator. In 2008, Azza was awarded a Diploma in Filmmaking from the SAE Institute in Amman. In 2010, she produced her first feature in Jordan with director Everett Lewis, an award-winning independent filmmaker who has written and directed nine features. 

In 2011, Azza graduated from the Red Sea Institute of Cinematic Arts (RSICA) with a Higher Diploma in Producing and Sound.

 

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