Ghazi Alqudcy on 'My Parents are Animals', shown at the 4th Experimental Film Forum



My Parents Are Animals / Ghazi Alqudcy / 2012
After witnessing a woman killing a cat from his flat, M makes instant noodles to appease his hunger. W is born.

Out of hunger, out of control, out of nonchalance. Is relationship the result of ignorance or domination?

M is neither from Mars, nor W from Venus.


My Parents Are Animals (Trailer) from Ghazi Alqudcy on Vimeo.

We round up our coverage of the 4th Experimental Film Forum by chatting with Ghazi Alqudcy about his film My Parents Are Animals.

SINdie (S): My Parents Are Animals stood out among the films screened in the Singapore Experimental Shorts series, given that it had a structured, if not necessarily linear, narrative -- there was character development, and a plot that went through the conflict-resolution-conclusion arc. What defines experimental film for you? Is it more about narrative or about technique, in your view? 

Ghazi Alqudcy (GA): To answer the question “What is experimental film?” could be quite tough as experimental film as a type or genre has evolved. When I was doing this film, I didn’t start off thinking, “I’m making an experimental film”. In fact I was hoping not to do that.

During the pitching session, I proposed a mockumentary about five Singaporeans who were selected for a mission to Mars and the conspiracy behind that. (Firstly I am amazed how the School of Art, Design and Media at NTU would choose that project). It’s quite a crazy project. Midway, I told my professor, I want to do a narrative project and would like to change my idea, and he approved it. After a gruelling 10 months of scriptwriting, I dropped the project one week before shooting as I could not get my A-list cast due to time commitment. My Parents Are Animals were conceived the day after I told everyone from my team that I am sorry. And they decided to push me even further. Lesson learnt here, in filmmaking, it’s important to get the right team. Thus I think the journey is more experimental then the film.




After making the film, I realised it’s the kind of film that is quite difficult to put in a particular type. Aishah, the film programmer at The Substation, was quite interested to put it in “experimental shorts” for the performative element being quite experimental. I thank her for that.


S: What were your inspirations for the look / art direction of the film? The indoor scenes, particularly the bedroom ones (where it seemed M and W were actually getting along), felt very dark and sultry, also mirrored in W's outfits (the black dress, the red lipstick). And then you had the scenes set outdoors with the bright sun, the bright green grass in the park, where M and W were up to some activities that would've seemed pretty strange to passers-by. 

GA: The credit for the look and art direction goes to Naresh Subhash (Director of Photography) and Leong Mei Hung (Art Director). I would give them references or share how I would like it to happen and they built on that. I often give my references very vague, as film is a very collaborative effort. For some of the scenes, it could be as vague as, “W takes over the world and destroys all man with her beauty.” (The point where the actress puts on her lipstick)

And passers-by seemed to be very open about this. Of course we had curious uncles trying to watch but nothing more than that.


S: What was your process like with your actors? Was there room for improvisation or did you work with a detailed script? And I have to ask—what sorts of reactions did you get, say from passers-by, when you filmed some of the “edgier” scenes (like when M and W wear collars) in public?  

GA: I left full creativity to my crew so that I could focus more on directing the actors. There were no rehearsals prior to this, and Andre (M) meets Minyi (W) for the first time on set. And to make things more difficult, we started the shoot with one of the most difficult scenes, the bedroom scenes where W takes over control. I requested for half an hour alone with Andre and Minyi in the bedroom and we did some familiarisation exercises. It was a half hour of them behaving like dogs, changing emotions from angry, making love to even fighting for space. It was quite intense and till today I could never thank Andre and Minyi for wanting to try the roles of M and W.

Directing them after that was quite easy. I pulled emotions from the exercise and we constantly worked upon this idea of surreal realism. There were times for me to brief both of them together, but most of the time, I would spend time briefing them individually. And again, I would be as vague as possible in my direction as Andre and Minyi are able to give inputs to my direction. For instance, there was a powerful scene, which we didn’t use due to some reason: Minyi was crying so painfully after being tied by the door as a dog. At that part, I shared my experience with her when I watched Poetry (link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poetry_(film)) by Lee Chang Dong, which left me staring at the white wall for quite some time. And we talked about this pain staring at the white wall. It was just a 15-minute discussion and by then, she was ready for it.

There were passers-by who were curious, but we would try to bring the camera closer and had crew cover the set or block it from a certain distance. This was to make sure that curious passers-by would not disturb my actors’ performances.


S: At the Q&A session following the Singapore Experimental Shorts screening, you had mentioned that the film is about male-female relationship dynamics. Do you intend for your viewers to take any message away from the film? Though it is about the challenges of such a relationship and the somewhat perverse ways in which two individuals can antagonise each other, I also found it funny! Did you intend to evoke laughter? Do you think audiences laugh if they feel uncomfortable with what they see on screen? 

GA: I don’t think there is a focus message that I would like the audience to take from this film, as this would restrict ways of reading the film. The male-female relationship dynamic is quite clear in the film and the title is quite clear, “My Parents Are Animals”. Again, this film is not about my parents, but how I see the society, the people around me, and observation.

For me, I think certain parts of the film were quite comedic. I personally think that the whole film is a comedy, kind of like how we all laugh at ourselves…

S: Are you able to share what you are working on at the moment? Is it a continuation of or a departure from "My Parents Are Animals", given your interest in further exploring male-female relationship dynamics?

GA: I am still daydreaming about my next work. Taking a break from making films for a while. But not for long!!!
Presently I teach foundation level Moving Images and Sound at Lasalle and in my spare time do other art shows. 

Just last week, I exhibited a new work as part of a group show curated by Jason Wee for Grey Projects. I presented an audio piece entitled, “Would you be laughing at yourself if one day you pick up a public phone and the whole world is laughing at you.” The artist statement is: “Laughter is contagious and could be seen as a weapon of mass destruction. Try putting 500 obese, fat and ugly queers trapped in a gas chamber. How sad yet funny.” The show, “NO APPROVAL” (link: https://www.facebook.com/events/409347965836992/) is part of Indignation (https://www.facebook.com/IndigNationSG), a queer event.

I am also currently preparing for another art show as part of the Night Festival (https://www.facebook.com/events/614736998560644/?fref=ts) at The Substation.

S: All the best with your projects, Ghazi, and we look forward to your next film!

Interview by Aditi Shiva 

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