FILMMAKING WITH A FEMALE VISION
NOUF AL SULAITI, QATAR’S VERY OWN FEMALE FILMMAKER IS SETTING A NEW TONE FOR THE DRIVEN GALS
You have a new film coming out, how did you come up with the concept, and can you share the name of the film?
I remember I was so inspired to write right after a Master class with my favourite directors, Asghar Farhadi, in the last years of Qumra. I left that Master class feeling like I had something to say about women and inequality, and I did, I turned it into a script and filmed it a year later. It’s called Gubgub, which means crab. The film is about a girl, after getting her first catch of the day while crab hunting with her father and brother, bright-eyed Jawaher shows it to her father. He dismisses her, but goes on to praise her brother’s catch. Determined to win her father’s approval, Jawaher shrugs off his hurtful reaction and sets out to catch ten crabs. On her quest, she finds herself battling for a catch with Nawaf, a boy who shares her goal.
Being a female filmmaker, how difficult was it to break into such industry in Qatar?
The industry in Qatar isn’t so big, so ‘breaking through’ isn’t so hard – even though I still feel like I didn’t actually break through. I’m thankful for companies that we have here like The Film House and Doha Film Institute, who put effort into helping female filmmakers do what they love. I would say though, being a female filmmaker has been a little difficult in terms of the culture and society we have in Qatar, but nothing can stop you if you have the will, the ambition and the dream to push through it all.
What was the creative process behind the film, and how long did it take you to actually film it?
It took some time to develop the script – around a year. I just kept reading and writing, as well as having professionals read it and give feedback; I love hearing people’s feedback, you can’t stop learning. I worked really closely with my Producer and Cinematographer in order to envision the film, such as location scouting, storyboarding, etc. It took around a month, and the actual filming took around three days.
What were some challenges you had to overcome throughout this process?
The hardest part was to stop thinking like a producer. Producing is and has always benn my passion before directing Gubgub, and it was really hard to let go of all the logistics and just direct! My mind would just keep bouncing back to producing. Thankfully, I had the best producer ever, Justin Kramer, so I never really had to worry. Also, filming in the sea is not easy, water tides change literally in a minute, next thing you know you’re stuck on an island and need to swim back!
How did you get into filmmaking?
I got into Northwestern University back in 2015. I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I took one production class and I was hooked. During my freshmen year, my professor would constantly call me ‘The Producer,’ and I had no idea what that meant. Fast forward three years, she was right.
If you could have a sit down with anyone in the film industry, who would it be with and why?
Samira Makhmalbaf, she directed one of my favourite movies of all time, At Five in the Afternoon. I just want to know more about her, where she gets her inspiration and her style of filming.
When creating this project, who was your biggest inspiration?
It was my 12-year-old niece, Deema. I wanted to write a story to empower her and girls her age.
If you could swap lives for a day with someone, who would it be and why?
Honestly, my cat Toby.
What is your favourite bit about filmmaking?
Working with the crew. Filmmaking is a lot of work but honestly, working with a great team makes the work feel seamless.
Where can we catch your new project?
Not sure yet. We are still in the early stages of post-production and it won’t be done for another couple of months. Hoping it will circle a few festivals around the world. I will definitely keep you guys posted!