Cover Story

Hold your horses

April 18 - April 24, 2024
Gulf Weekly Hold your horses
Gulf Weekly Hold your horses
Gulf Weekly Hold your horses
Gulf Weekly Hold your horses

Gulf Weekly  Melissa Nazareth
By Melissa Nazareth

More than 50 talented Bahrainis have joined hands to work on a film which showcases dreams, resistance, and the futility of it all, and is set for release next month.

The Arabic movie Oudur Ajmal min Thanb, which translates to A Beautiful Excuse, for a Deadly Sin, revolves around Qassim, a young man who wants to take his horse up a narrow flight of stairs to live with him in his apartment.

He is met with judgement and resistance from his neighbours, particularly 60-year-old Abu Ghayeb, played by leading Bahraini actor Mubarak Khamis, who blocks the way.

What ensues is a series of actions to resist the other’s attempts, and utter chaos. Does Qassim achieve his goal or is he defeated by society?

Director and writer Hashim Sharaf, one of the winners of the Isa Cultural Centre short film grant, penned the story inspired by his personal experience but believes the film will resonate with a wider audience because ‘we all have dreams’ and, at some point, ‘have had to overcome hurdles to make them a reality’.

“One day I got a call from my mother asking me to urgently run to my grandfather’s place, as one of the neighbours was trying to get a horse up to their apartment,” the award-winning filmmaker, with a Bachelor’s degree in filmmaking and cinema studies from RMIT University in Australia, told GulfWeekly.

“My partner and I faced societal pressure when we decided to get married as we belong to different castes, and this experience helped me resonate with the young man’s story.

“The horse, to me, symbolises the dream; the stairwell, the passage of time and the older neighbour, the generational gap. It struck a chord with many others who then volunteered to be a part of this film. We all shared a mutual belief that telling the story was a shout for help to let us pursue our dreams.”

Filmed over two days, the 16-minute live-action, dark comedy addresses the challenges one faces while making unconventional life choices.

Qassim, played by rising Bahraini star Omar Al Saeedi, faces opposition from his neighbours. Even his mother puts society before his dreams.

The film has many messages, including society’s indifference – everyone is more focused on their own goals, like passing through the stairs, for instance, instead of what Qassim was trying to achieve.

“We don’t pay attention to other people’s problems as long as they don’t affect us, but one day, they might catch up to us, so, let’s come together to support others,” Hashim explained, highlighting that caring for others benefits the entire community.

The film’s title, A Beautiful Excuse, for a Deadly Sin, is inspired by a famous Arabic proverb that translates to ‘an excuse is worse than a sin’.

The idea of living with a horse is illogical, a ‘sin’, however, if we understand the sentiment and purpose behind it, it would trump what we, as a society, consider a sin, Hashim said.

He also touches upon how our actions can inspire others to find the courage to pursue their own goals – the Butterfly Effect. Qassim’s determination rubs off on a child who lives in the building.

“The film ends with a child emerging from the staircase railing, symbolising the Butterfly Effect – how one small action (by Qassim) might have left a larger influence on the child’s mind. I won’t say more and invite you to watch the film to find out how,” he added.

There were deliberate choices made for the project, like choosing a narrow building to film in and bringing a horse on set. But Hashim and the dynamic crew overcame the hurdles despite a limited budget.

“We identified a suitable building in Manama but to fit a large crew in such a tight space during summer, that too with a horse, for more than 16 hours over two days was not easy,” he said.

“Furthermore, the lighting of the building was difficult to control, but we overcame it thanks to the support of the public service authorities. We even worked closely with a horse trainer so the animal was well taken care of at all times. Our art department did a great job with quick, temporary fixes to the stairs to accommodate the horse.”

Hashim hopes authorities in Bahrain will make more investments and efforts to promote cinema and support local filmmakers.

Oudur Ajmal min Thanb will be released in Saudi Arabia next month and in Bahrain this year. 

For more details, follow @hashimsharaf on Instagram.

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