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Bahrain’s film scene has a new star behind the lens, as an enthusiastic local director prepares to launch his first full-length movie in the kingdom.
Saleh Sharif recently visited Turkey along with associates to shoot his new drama, Bits Of What I Have, and plans to showcase it at upcoming festivals around the world.
After many successful short films produced during his time majoring in political science at AMA Bahrain International University, the 25-year old from Hamad Town wrote a story he was particularly fond of, and believed it had the makings for his first feature flick.
Saleh said: “Bits Of What I Have is a feature film about an aging writer who doesn’t want to finish his last book and a young teacher who’s looking for inspiration.
“The film is heavily dialogue-driven focused on these two characters who are trying to find a reason to go on as they are in a downward spiral of questioning their existence and the world they live in.”
Old friends in Turkey convinced Saleh to shoot in the Eurasian nation, with its natural and old style of housing favouring the setting he wanted to create, while the wider range of scenery and less overt heat, dust and brightness provided better production values than the Gulf region, in his opinion.
Saleh explained: “We chose Turkey simply because we thought we could make it there better than anywhere else. It was also cheaper, and because we had old friends there, they provided help and support.”
Shooting the film took nine days across a variety of locations such as apartments, a school, a hospital and exterior shots from the streets of Istanbul. Evidently, such a project required a talented crew to make the film a reality.
In front of the lens the project boasted 10 actors including Mustafa Akyildiz, who played the author, his daughter, Yudum, who took the role of the wife of the teacher played by Bahadir Elmas.
Behind the camera there was a myriad of art directors, sound mixers and recorders, cameramen, focus pullers, Steadicam operators and more.
The film was shot using an ALEXA Plus camera, one of the best currently available on the market, and Saleh is now hard at work in the post-production phase.
However, putting the movie together was not always smooth sailing. Early in the project, Saleh was doubtful it would get off the ground because of financial challenges.
He said: “It took us around seven months to finally find enough funds for Bits Of What I Have. At the start it was turned down by everyone that we approached or encountered including the ministries, Bahrain TV, corporate firms, and even web crowd funding didn’t go to plan.
“We miraculously got funded at the last minute when I was about to leave for Turkey to look for funds there. A good friend of mine, Khalid Al Adi, told me his friend was interested in the project and wanted to meet me. This turned out to be producer Ibrahim Alrabeh, who believed in the project and backed it with his funds and support. I am extremely grateful to him for this opportunity.”
Saleh’s interest in film stretches back to his days as a young child when he was first introduced to the medium, and he immediately set about writing short scripts and developing his techniques over the years.
He explained: “It was when I got to university that I actually got serious about making these films I’d been writing for years. My first was in 2012 and it was called Colours of Bahrain, just about our country and its way of life, for a small youth organisation called AIESEC. After that we formed a film club at the university with a bunch of friends and started experimenting with cameras and lights.”
He then finished a couple of films called Exhausted Remedies and The Tree That Stood For A Day. Exhausted Remedies was nominated as an entry in the Naqsh Short Film Festival last October and it was screened at Seef Mall. Then, in December, it came third out of 72 international films in the Nasser Bin Hamad International Youth Creativity Awards.
He said: “This gave me the confidence to go bigger and better, which led to Bits Of What I Have, and I haven’t looked back since. Film making is my passion and this film is just the start of my journey. Hopefully, one day I can make it my profession and make a decent living from it.”