Interview with director Hana Kazim

Hana Kazim works as an executive at Image Nation Abu Dhabi, and was involved in their recent productions Shabab Sheyab (On Borrowed Time) and Rashid & Rajab. Prior to Image Nation, Hana received her Master of Fine Arts degree in Film Producing at the American Film Institute Conservatory in Los Angeles.

  • Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that filmmaking is your way of telling stories?

As a business major, I decided to take a film course. On the second class they screened THE GODFATHER, I was hooked after that.

  • Do you think it is essential to go to a film institute in order to become a successful filmmaker?

I believe watching films is the best education. An institute only offers you a community to find collaborators in.

  • Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?

To keep going is harder. It’s a demanding industry. Stepping out of my comfort zone was the biggest challenge, and it’s something filmmaking demands of you constantly.

  • What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your film? How did that lesson happen?

After making my first short someone great said to me, “Don’t show us what the world is like, show us what the world could be”. It taught me that film is less about making aggressive statements about reality and more about creating a world in which to tell your story.

  • What were the production realities from casting through editing that you had to accommodate? How did you navigate those compromises or surprises and still end up with a cohesive film?

As in every film, there are a lot of challenges. I have a full-time job, and only had a small window to make this short. As such, I tried to make the film as simple as I possibly can by shooting in one location, but of course nothing is ever simple with filmmaking.

  • What was the hardest artistic choice you made in the making of a film, at any stage in production?

Every director has big dreams going into production. Trying to achieve texture during a time crunch is hard. It was important to narrow down the shots needed to tell the story, but losing those shots is what was the most difficult challenge.

  • You are a collaborator. How have you discovered members of your team and how do you keep the relationship with them strong?

Film school was where I met my producer and DP, there is a certain language you develop when working with people who have the same background you do, which makes collaboration easier. I met my other team members through working in the industry as an executive. Constantly keeping active in the industry helps you know who you can rely on, we had great synergy on MAKR.

  • What do audiences want? And is it the filmmaker’s role to worry about that?

It’s important not to underestimate your audience. It’s 100% the filmmaker’s role to think about their audience. Film falls in the line of art and entertainment, and it needs to do justice to both. As such, understanding you audience’s engagement throughout the film is crucial.

  • What role have film festivals played in your life so far? Why are they necessary? How do you get the most out of them?

Film festivals are a necessity for filmmakers around the world to have their work travel and be seen by a wider audience. Festivals have been a great way for me to find connections, for future collaboration.

  • Do you believe that a filmmaker should be original and fresh or he/she should stick to classic but safe cinema style?

I don’t think there is a hard and fast rule to style. I believe filmmakers find their own style over time, and that there is no harm in learning from the artist that came before. Be it renaissance painters, or music video directors.