UAE film, L'Attente, makes it onto global streaming platform
Movie getting recognition it deserves says Dubai director Ashish Varghese
IN ANOTHER BOON for the UAE's film fraternity, 2016 short movie L'Attente (The Wait) has recently been selected by India's Disney streaming platform, Disney+ Hotstar, to be included in its permanent catalogue. Now being beamed directly into the homes of a potential audience of millions, the Dubai-filmed, UAE Short Film Festival award-winner should receive the eyeballs it always deserved thinks director, Ashish Varghese.
Filmed over two months in 2015 on location at Oasis Mall, Al Quoz, the 14-minute picture tells the story of two individuals - Khalid and Dev (Arjun Raman and Mohammed Ali) - as they meet in a chic French bistro with two very differing views on love. Inspired by the scaled-back atmosphere in 2012 French Oscar-winner Amour, the restaurant manager and customer duo discover a common thread linking their lives despite holding opposite standpoints in matters of the heart.
"When I made the film I handed it over to a YouTube distributor," Varghese explained when asked about the process behind L'Attente dropping on Disney+ Hotstar. "Just lately that company approached various platforms and Hotstar took an array - about 4000 - of their titles and one of them was ours. It's something really great. It is really getting its due after four years."
Varghese said an effort was made during the initial release to establish a wider distribution, yet with limited resources the movie was left to achieve a modest viewership on social media. The Disney release in India should considerably boost the numbers; a success story from which Varghese believes the whole local filmmaking crowd can benefit.
"Those people will appreciate what is going on in the UAE," he said. "It will give more opportunities for films made here to be accepted over there."
A Dubai resident for 15 years, Varghese initially accompanied his filmmaker father from India to the UAE when dad decided to embark on a new career. The youngster, however, was not completely immune to the movie bug and soon discovered a talent for filming which allowed advancement into the advertising world to use his skills to produce over 50 commercials to date. Though an itch to have his work on the big screen was never far away and after a stint as assistant director on Bollywood film Happy New Year (2014) which was shot in Dubai, and putting together his first professional short (Aramghar), Varghese established Seaface Films.
L'Attente's schedule was not as straightforward as you may expect for a quarter-hour story. Not only were there conflicts with the main actors' and crew's day jobs, finding a performer at Ali's time of life in Dubai was no mean feat.
"It took a lot of research. We found four or five to audition and that was a lot because there aren't too many in that age bracket in Dubai.
"Mohammed Ali was bang on. He became a very timid 60-year-old man so easily. His role changed a few times from passive to aggressive and back again, but he played passive so well we kept it like that."
Despite only four years passing since L'Attente's release, Varghese says making films and finding a larger talent pool in the UAE has become easier.
"Producers and directors have been challenging each other with concepts," he said. "It (the movie standard) has elevated to a very different level. I used to watch the films a few years ago and now it does not compare."
What did working on L'Attente teach you?
The movie was well-received by those who watched it, but you need lots of people to see your work. After L'Attente I moved onto a local Indian language film called Aai (Mother). That got a lot of attention. I was probably more adept at marketing after l'Attente.