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An Interview with Baba Ali at the GPU2010 || @ummahfilms

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It’s finally ready… and it only took me several months to get round to editing it!

The girls from Sisters Film Club met up with Baba Ali at the GPU2010 for a short chat about his work on Half Our Deen, Ummah Films (including the response to their latest film release ‘Doctor Director‘), and the importance of the Muslim community’s relationship with the media.

Click here to listen to the mp3.

I originally edited the footage to produce a video, but some problems with the B-roll made me think a podcast release would be the better way to go. I think it still works – thus illustrating the importance of audio quality over video when filming interviews. :)

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Vimeo Video School

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The video-sharing website, Vimeo, has launched an online ‘school’ with videos on how to make good, err, videos! It looks way cool, masha’Allah. I can’t wait to watch them. Just as soon as I leave the office… ahem. :)

The only grumble is, the school web page doesn’t seem to have an RSS feed, or email subscribe option. Please leave a comment if you find it!

Trailer: From Duniya to Deen

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According to an email I was sent today, the above trailer is for a “feature length project titled, From Duniya To Deen”; a film charting the course of The Deen Show Eddie’s journey to Islam. It is an intriguing watch, and I look forward to its release, insha’Allah. I just hope that the full version is as gritty as the trailer; this would certainly be a more appealing prospect to those who are interested in Islam, but don’t want to be preached at.

P.S., I couldn’t help but notice that a familiar face has once again been cast as the lead role in a Muslim production. :)

Student Film-Maker Mentorship Opportunity

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Thanks to sis Yasmeen of Campusalam for the ‘heads up’ on the following initiative:

Three Faiths Forum is recruiting London-based students from Muslim, Christian and Jewish backgrounds for our DocuMentors programme.

DocuMentors provides students with an interest in film the opportunity be mentored by a professional film-maker and make vital contacts for future careers. Participants will gain access to high quality equipment and training as they work on their own film.

Last year participants worked with some of the biggest names in comedy – including David Mitchell, Omid Djalili and David Baddiel – in their film, “The Laugh Judgment”, about the relationship between faith and comedy.

We would be very grateful if you could circulate the information about the programme to your contacts, or recommend anyone you think we should approach.

Update: I just noticed that the deadline for application to the programme was 15th Nov 2010 – I only received the email yesterday, so I assumed that there was still time to enter! I recommend contacting the group anyway – even if it’s simply to register interest for future mentorships.

Doctor, Director: Review, Part II || @UmmahFilms

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I wrote this review post a while ago, but totally forgot about it. The critique is still relevant, though I understand if it is considered ‘old news’. If you haven’t watched Doctor, Director, then you can catch it on Vimeo.

This is a follow-up to my original post about Ummah Films’ latest release, Doctor, Director. As I mentioned before, I didn’t think it would be great manners to negatively criticize (even in the constructive sense) a production so soon after its release. At least in this case, where I admire the intentions of the project, and understand that the team in question are independent filmmakers on a tight budget, and still very much in their infancy as a production house. Further, the end product was free to watch. So the film definitely cannot be treated like your average multi-million dollar, Hollywood blockbuster, where the studio insists on taking £12 of your hard-earned money (excluding overpriced cinema snacks) before proceeding to waste 100 minutes of your life.

Anyway… to the point. I’ve already talked briefly about what I liked, and now it’s time to dole out the bitter medicine of sharing what I consider to be ‘areas for improvement’.

From a technical perspective, though I loved the film quality, I thought the cuts could have been tighter, especially in the scenes that featured dialogue. I often felt like the silent pauses were too long, or a scene was left to ‘hang’ in places. Pauses can be great to add tension, drama, and to offer moments for reflection, but they can also be annoying and ruin the flow.

Getting the best from your actors is one of the greatest challenges for a director, especially if the actors themselves are not professionals, so I actually didn’t place as much importance on this considering the budget and time scale. I thought the best acting came from ‘Layla’, masha’Allah, but the interactions between characters was lacking – something. Chemistry, perhaps? Also the timing of lines was a little off. Again, tighter editing would have helped in this regard.

In terms of story-telling, clearly, the storyline made sense, and the fact that I felt sorry for Ali and Layla shows that the film did the job of making the audience sympathize with the plight of the protagonists. I think the scene when Ali first meet’s Layla’s brother could have been executed better. The lines spoken as they walk towards the house were important in terms of Ali’s character development, as they portray him as person of deep thought and spiritual reflection. However, I couldn’t always make out the dialogue, and the long-distance camera angle implied that the lines being spoken were merely background ‘small talk’, with little significance.

I thought the role of Layla’s brother had great potential, which wasn’t fully exploited. He was the voice of reason and of sympathy, but he wasn’t used often enough. Also, it is unfortunate that the parents came off as jerks, rather than misguided individuals. It was funny at first, but the fact that you never see any genuine concern coming from them for their daughter’s welfare may be problematic in terms of using this video to address real problems in the community. Not all parents – even the fussy ones – are that cold-hearted, and they may be offended by this two dimensional portrayal.

Despite the criticism, I think this was reasonable first attempt at social commentary film. I disagree with some who argue that the money could have been spent on better causes. They clearly have no idea how much film-making costs, even on an amateur level – forget the cost of hiring professional people and equipment! Perhaps the production would have benefited from a test screening, like the big boys do, which would have given the team the feedback required to make doable changes prior to release, such as improvements to editing.

I’d highly recommend this option for the next project, and also, that the team consider re-cutting Doctor, Director which would lead to significant improvements all round.

Zain Bhikha Shout Out Video

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As mentioned in the last post, we attended the GPU last weekend to do a bit of shooting for the blog, MuslimMatters.org. Our main goal was to interview Baba Ali, but we managed to catch a few seconds with the nasheed artist, Zain Bhikha too. Here’s the video:

Baba Ali Interview: A Sneak Preview

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Here are some screen grabs from our interview with Baba Ali of Ummah Films, at the GPU 2010. The main interview was shot using a Canon HV20, but I had the idea of using the HD video function of my iPod Touch 4G to capture some B-roll, from which the following stills were grabbed. Though the quality is no where near ideal, I think it is sufficient for B-roll, and the graininess could even add some character?

Read the rest of this entry

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