Interview with Nidal Aldibs, director of Taming

15 years ago, Nidal Aldibs wrote a script about a young Syrian who loves a woman in defiance of her family. His fear of the family’s vengeance, however, overcomes his love and when they suffer a tragic car accident he runs away. Did she die? The young man and viewers alike start a nerve-wrecking journey to find out.  5 years ago, Aldibs witnessed his very same script happening in real life.  “Now who is going to believe me when I say my film Taming is not based on a real story?” Aldibs says with black humour.

What inspired your film?

The state of selfcensorship that we have reached today; It is no longer oppression, ideology and taboos that used to be imposed on us from the outside which are preventing us from achieving what we want. Rather, we have created our own censorship mechanism. Fear plays a big role in that.

The eagle representing freedom is only one of the many symbols and metaphors that you used in Taming. What do you think of symbolism in films?

I do not like to call it symbolism. I include in my films “things” with different connotations. This, I believe, opens new horizons for the viewers.

The style of Taming differs from that of your first feature film Under the Ceiling (2005), which goes at quite a slow pace, with little action if any. Can you describe your style in Taming?

Taming is built on tension. The film starts with one extraordinary action that triggers a question, which is not answered until the very end of the film. Other than that, there are no big actions in the film. Rather, lots of details. This is because I wanted to explore the inner side of people.

What challenges did you face in making the film?

To make a film like Taming you need an understanding producer who loves cinema. Fortunately, I could work with (Syrian producer) Haitham Hakki who is just that. Making a film with the small budget I had was challenging. I only had few days for shooting and could only work with a limited number of actors. But I enjoyed this challenge.

You mostly make fiction films. However, before Taming you directed your first documentary Black Stone (2006). Would you consider going back to documentary filmmaking or is fiction your ruling passion?

It really depends on what I have to say. A film’s message is what dictates its form. I might even end up making theatre. Why not?

Syrian drama television series are very popular in the region. The same could not be said about films. Why is that?

Because there is hardly any film production in Syria to start with. On average, only one or two Syrian films are produced per year. Ironically, these few films are better known outside Syria. This is because there are few cinema halls in Syria. Amman alone has twice as many cinemas as the whole of Syria. But even if there were more, not many people can afford going to the cinema.

Also, other Arab countries like Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and Lebanon, among others, have a bigger cinema production than Syria. Consequently, there is more interest in films, including Syrian ones. Even so Syrian films are not sufficiently promoted abroad. The only solution to this is the establishment of more private film production companies in Syria.

Two Syrian films made it to Abu Dhabi film festival this year. What do you think about that?

Taking into consideration the small scale film production that we have in Syria, I believe that having two films on show is quite a good number. I think that the quality of Syrian films does not match its production scale. Syria produces some of the best films in the region.

What does it mean for you to be here at the Abu Dhabi film festival?

On a personal level, participating in the Abu Dhabi film festival is very important for me. Other than film festivals, there are not that many film screening opportunities in the region. Furthermore, this is a chance to screen my film for a new audience and meet producers and distributors. This might open a new door for collaboration in the future.

This article was published in Nisimazine Abu Dhabi 2010, Abu Dhabi International film festival’s daily bulletin. Download pdf version here.

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