With his debut live-action short film Carga, being showcased at the Oscar qualifying HollyShorts Film Festival for his world premiere. At QMIN Magazines, we had the exciting opportunity to talk to film director Yad Deen; about his enjoyment of film and his creative visions.
Yad! Please introduce yourself to our readers!
Sure! Iʼm Yad Deen, a filmmaker from London. I was born in the Kurdish Region of Iraq and moved to London when I was two years old. My parents were political exiles, and we were forced to flee Saddam Husseinʼs regime on horseback through the mountains in the summer of ʼ86. I grew up in Maida Vale, where we were close to places like Abbey Studios. In my teenage years, I studied Media Productions at a college in London. I then went on to study a film degree at Southampton University, and finally went on to do a postgrad in Barcelona, where I stayed in Spain for a few years after that.
It was during his time in Spain, where Yad began exploring his talent with creating promo videos and entering in competitions. He then moved to Baghdad where he would face some unexpected challenges.
Stills from the movie, Carga
How did your journey into film begin?
When I moved to Baghdad, I opened a production/advertising company. But I had the most negligent lawyer you could imagine! He took so long with all the bureaucracy of company implementation that by the time he was done, ISIS had arrived in the country.
As a person born in the Kurdish Region (and a Brit), I was at risk of being noticed by some militias that had developed in Baghdad. However, I still stayed as I wanted to gauge where the situation would go. I did a few gigs for local television in that time, and it was when I directed an episode of a documentary series on an orphanage in Baghdad, that I stopped caring about the advertising company I’d set up, and more on human topics in the country. So I moved to the North, and thatʼs where my documentary and photography career took off. Unfortunately, millions of IDPs and refugees were a result of the conflict with ISIS and this meant that many NGOs and governments needed to document their efforts. Thatʼs where I came in. But, of course, Iʼd been practicing certain skills, and essentially waiting for the right moment to make my debut short fiction.
You’ve travelled and stayed in places quite different from each other, would you say that these experiences have influenced your style perhaps?
I donʼt think they’ve influenced my style, but definitely influenced the kinds of stories I want to tell. There are so many locations Iʼve visited, so many cultural comparisons that I’m able to make, which all help in my creative planning for future works. Carga, for example, was a cross-cultural collaboration; a British producer/director, Spanish cast, crew and a location where most from the West wouldnʼt dream of visiting- Iraq. But these are the kinds of projects that bring cultures together, bridge gaps and allow for future opportunities in industries, some wouldnʼt dream worthy of investment- but we did it. The people at festivals, around the world, have been astonished at the landscapes Iraq has to offer the film industry.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Sometimes, Iʼll get it from music. I remember hearing Miserere for the first time, and it fit perfectly with a short film I hadnʼt completed writing, but the music helped me finish. At times Iʼll see a location that fascinates me and a million ideas go through my head, which is what happened with Carga; a desolate and eery factory that I had imagined two particular characters visiting. But, of course, I do get it from watching my favourite filmmakers, Quentin Tarantino, Guillermo Del Toro, Woody Allen, Tony Scott, Kim Jee-woon, Yasujiro Ozu and Alfred Hitchcock, to name a few.
With inspiration being sourced from this talented list, it is no wonder that his short film Carga; which is about two Spanish documentary filmmakers, who travel to Iraq to uncover the secrets of an abandoned cigarette factory, attracts attention.
What was the creative process like for producing Carga? Where can people watch it?
Carga, was filmed by an extremely talented director of photography and dear friend of mine, Gema Briones- who recently picked up ‘Best Cinematography’ for Carga . My vision for the filmʼs visuals was to get a raw feel throughout. I wanted the shots to take the audience into each scene and feel like theyʼre with the characters. Youʼll notice that most of the shots in the film are from an interior (even when shooting someone who is outside); certain situations in Iraq can be claustrophobic, and what happens in the film – without giving too much away – allows for such visual language to work for Marta, our main character. And when youʼre filming in a location like the factory and the mountains we were filming at, youʼll try to find a balance between giving the audience a chance to absorb this colossal site and reminding them of how far away they are from home, which is achieved with the tight shots throughout. For Carga, less was more when it came to cutting because it allowed the audience to feel the moments without being distracted by a hundred different angles. Carga is still doing its festival circuit, but will be available on the worldʼs leading platform for short films at some point in 2019.
Alongside his ambitious nature and creative flair for film, Yad has also been involved in documentary works such as, ‘Hunting Isis’ and ‘Female Peshmerga’; which looks at the current situation and reality people face with terrorism.
What was your experience like whilst filming?
I was an additional cinematographer for two episodes of Hunting ISIS, which is a documentary series following a group of veteran and civilian volunteers, who travel to Syria and Iraq to fight against ISIS alongside local militias. I was proud to have played a small role in this documentary project that recently aired on the History Channel. I had just arrived from filming out of town, and it was past midnight when I got a call from Sebastiano (the director). They needed to film the journey to the Syria/Iraq border where the coffins of the US veterans, that had been killed in conflict, were being transferred to Sulaymaniyah, the city I was in, about nine hours drive away. It was an urgent mission and they needed footage of the entire journey from where I was, to the border and back to the city into the morgue. It was astonishing to see how much support these US veterans had, and how many people were mourning them. Iʼd stepped out of the ambulance and jumped on the back of a pick up truck, and could see all these cars with flags following us chanting support at the ambulances. Female Peshmerga was for Circa News, and I personally loved to see all these female fighters so strong and in control, and you can feel the courage when they speak- they speak with such conviction.
And finally Yad, what has been your biggest achievement recently, and where can people go to keep up with your work?
Oh, thatʼll definitely be my debut short live-action film Carga having its world premiere at The Oscar-Qualifying HollyShorts Film Festival, at the TCL Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard in August 2018. Also, being selected at the largest and longest-running horror film festival in the US, Screamfest LA, which is where Paranormal Activity premiered and got discovered.
I’ve recently teamed up with Simon Reade, writer and producer of Journey’s End (BFI/Lionsgate, director Saul Dibb) and we are now developing a slate of projects together. These projects include short films, feature films and television series that are based in a variety of different locations, including Iraq and the UK.
Keep up to date with Yad’s exciting new projects on priorypictures.com
Or Find Yad on Twitter: @yaddeen
And on Instagram: Instagram: @yaddeen