Cover Story

Fighting the enemy within

June 20 - June 26, 2024
Gulf Weekly Fighting the enemy within
Gulf Weekly Fighting the enemy within
Gulf Weekly Fighting the enemy within
Gulf Weekly Fighting the enemy within

A BAHRAINI filmmaker is highlighting the struggles of women with Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) and celebrating their resilience and the enduring human spirit in the face of adversity.

Director and co-writer Mahmood Alshaikh wrapped up the shooting for Jooz (Arabic for walnuts) last month, which powerfully portrays a woman’s battle to secure a better future for herself and her family, despite the severe health and social challenges that she faces.

It’s so named as the walnuts cracked and eaten in the film symbolise Narjes, the main character in the story.

Jooz is poised to make an impact at film festivals and special screenings soon, following its presentation at a Bahrain Sickle Cell Society event recently.

SCD is an inherited blood disorder that interferes with the delivery of oxygen to the tissues.

World Sickle Cell Day is observed on June 19 each year and the Global Alliance of Sickle Cell Disease Organisations announced this year’s theme as ‘Hope Through Progress: Advancing Sickle Cell Care Globally’.

“The Bahrain Sickle Cell Society reached out to collaborate on creating a short film that highlights the struggles of women with the disease,” Mahmood told GulfWeekly.

“Inspired by this, Mohamed Atiq, the co-writer of this film, and I decided to craft a deeply human story filled with emotions, portraying the challenges faced by sickle cell patients.

“The film follows Narjes, a 30-year-old woman suffering from SCD, who tries to restart her life after the death of her daughter. She works as a school bus driver and plans to have another child, but faces a setback with her husband who has lost his zest for life,” he added.

Jooz is set to be shown at film festivals and special screenings have also been planned, details of which will be announced soon, according to Mahmood.

“As of now, the film has only been shown at an event organised by the Bahrain Sickle Cell Society,” the 39-year-old added.

Though Mahmood and his team are thrilled at what the future holds for Jooz, the director reminisces memories of making the film.

There were many challenges, from delayed filming to subsequent time constraints, but the crew, determined to share Narjes’ story with the audience, persisted.

“One of the primary challenges was the tight schedule and limited budget,” Mahmood, who owns Frame Box for Artistic Production and is a director at Bahrain TV, revealed.

“Although the screenplay was completed three months before the event, filming was delayed due to various issues from the organisers.

“This left the team with only two days for filming and two days for editing before the premiere and we had to maintain high production quality.

“We also had to move between filming locations across Bahrain and complete shooting before sunset, which placed immense pressure on the team to accomplish their goals within the tight time-frame.”

Despite the hurdles and budget limitations, the team managed to complete filming.

Jooz has been jointly produced by Frame Box for Artistic Production and Bahrain Sickle Cell Society.

“The film powerfully portrays the struggles and resilience of women with sickle cell disease and we cannot wait to see the impact it makes,” the Sanad resident, who has a degree in multimedia from Bahrain University, noted.

The team’s previous feature film Rose Water was screened at several international festivals and won multiple awards. The crew is currently preparing for another feature film, scheduled for production in 2025.

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