Eihab Boraie talks to the award-winning director bringing her unique brand of story telling to Egypt as she prepares to film 'Marriage: Impossible' right here...
No matter what anyone tells you, marriage is wonderful union that requires a great deal of compromise, compassion, and communication. Adjusting to your significant other's living habits can cause a great deal of stress on the relationship, which is exasperated further when one of the life partners are uprooted from their home and forced to continue to grow on foreign soil. Looking to capture the trials of adapting to marriage and a foreign land on film is Noor Hilal Arnaoot, who took the time to talk to us about her first feature film Marriage: Impossible that is set to start filming in Egypt in January 2015.
Noor Hilal Arnaoot is a Kuwaiti born and based writer and director that has made a name for herself on the strength of two award winning short films; Never, Never Talk to Strangers and Dancing in Fumes. From an early age, Arnaoot knew she had an artistic heart pumping creativity through her veins. “When I was very young, I used to put together plays for my family and charge them tickets to come watch me perform with my dolls. I guess I always had it in me, but only decided to seriously pursue film making after my first year of university when I was studying business in Toronto,” Arnaoot reminisces. Leaving behind the business world, Arnaoot set off to the West Coast graduating from the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles before embarking on a career in film making.
Off the heels of two successful shorts Arnaoot is poised to take on her first feature film. “Marriage: Impossible focuses on a marriage between an Arab man and an American woman, and discusses both their perspectives and hardships throughout the process. The film is both Middle Eastern as well as Western and the language of the film is actually more English than Arabic,” explains Arnaoot about her latest project. When writing the script Arnaoot found herself drawing on personal experience and general observation. “I’ve witnessed the hardships of marriage in the Arab world. How many rules need to be followed, how many prerequisites need to be “checked off.” We are still closed minded as Arabs especially when it comes to our personal life, so I wanted to target this sensitive subject and hopefully give Arabs a new perspective and mindset when it comes to things like love and marriage."
By filming in both English and Arabic and accompanying them with subtitles, Arnaoot believes that the film will entice audiences both domestically and internationally as many can relate to marriage, especially those who marry outside their culture. “I think Hollywood and Europe will connect to the American characters and their hardships and the Arabs will connect with the Egyptian characters. However, I hope the audience as a whole will learn from both cultures and maybe change their perspective and see things from a different angle,” describes a clearly passionate Arnaoot.
What comes as somewhat of surprise is that of all the locations to film, Arnaoot chose Egypt, which can often be a challenging place to shoot. According to Arnaoot, “I decided to shoot the film in Egypt for a lot of reasons. I fell in love with Cairo and the Egyptian culture on a visit for a friend’s wedding and I discovered that Egypt has a rich film industry. Egypt also possesses such a beautiful history and has gorgeous places that not a lot of people know about, which motivated me to want to show off this country both visually and verbally. I want to change the perspective that westerners have of this country, and the Arab world in general, and push them to want to visit Egypt and its beautiful landmarks. Hopefully my film will achieve that.”
This ambitious project will require Arnaoot to conquer several obstacles including making the leap from short film format to a full feature length. The passionate and ambitious film maker is determined to see the project through, nonetheless. Explaining the differences Arnaoot tells us “The whole process is completely different. First off, it took me a very long time to actually finish the script versus the weeks or couple months that it takes to write a short. Filming a short film is also much easier and simpler versus the hardships involved in a feature. A lot more planning is needed, I need to be aware of any and every aspect of the film and need to make sure everything is calculated and studied ahead of time since there are much higher monetary risks.” Often directors create short films to spread their name and to be seen at festivals, but when it comes time to creating a feature film, the pressure intensifies as a paying audience expects to be entertained.
If making the leap from short film to feature length isn’t daunting enough, Arnaoot also has to contend with being a woman in a male dominated field. “It’s hard to be taken seriously as a female who is the “boss” of a completely male dominated team and profession. Furthermore, I have the least experience from everyone on my team since it’s my first feature length film. So being both a female and someone with low experience is challenging and I constantly feeling the need to prove myself,” remarks Arnaoot. With shooting set for January and will hopefully be completed by the summer of 2015, it is still unclear where she hopes to hold the world premiere, but has her eyes set on showcasing the film in Hollywood, Europe, and the Arab world.
Conquering the obstacles ahead will require a great deal of effort and patience, but Arnaoot hopes that the end product will inspire the next generation of female film makers to ignore gender divides and follow their passion. Arnaoot believes wholeheartedly that “women have it in them to be directors. They know how to emotionally engage an audience and we shouldn’t let the fact that the film industry is male dominated stop us. So go for it, if you have something to say write it, if you have something to show, film it. Don’t let society stop you or make you feel like you don’t have the ability or strength to be a filmmaker.” We couldn’t agree more, and with Marriage: Impossible already challenging traditional perspectives it only seems fitting that Arnaoot leads the way in the region proving that gender has no bearings on the creation of beautifully refreshing art.