A special program by Cecilia Cossio
After only two shorts Maaria Sayed was selected among the twenty-four most promising Asian filmmakers and was accepted in the Asian Film Academy 2016 programme, where she co-directed the short ﬁlm Cichlid. ‘Cinema is in her blood, one would say. Not exactly, not at least when she brilliantly graduated in English literature at Mumbai University. However, she had a flair for painting and theatrical training, so she soon understood that cinema would be the ideal medium to combine and give form to her various interests. She moved to London and completed her cinema courses at the London Film School, where in 2013 she made her first short, Aabida. After working in Singapore as a writer for networks such as Discovery Channel and National Geographic, she went back to Mumbai, where she established a production company, Draw4Films, together with Alessandro Alpini, who had also graduated from the London Film School and has now become a producer and, more recently, a film director (Sunday Best, 2018). In 2016 Maaria completed Chudala, her second short, and in 2017 Wai guo ren (An Alien), a documentary set in Singapore. In 2017 she was also awarded the Short Film Pitch at the Fajr Film Festival (Iran) for her screenplay intended for a short she would shoot t in Nepal by the end of 2018.
Both the films that will be presented – Aabida and Chudala –take place in a Muslim setting, the first narrating of the aftermath of the 2008 Mumbai attacks by Muslim extremists of Pakistani matrix, which had seriously hit the Muslim Indian community the most disadvantaged in the country and often victim of extremist Hindus. The short explores the consequences that the tragic event of Mumbai had on Aabida’s life, being the widow of one of the victims. Unexpectedly, the loss of her husband is the key to discover an individual dimension. A rough path: formally there are many differences among the communities, but for Muslim and Hindu women, in similarsocial and cultural settings, there is often no alternative to becoming wives (by arranged marriage)and inconsolable widows, whose purpose in life is to give birth to children.
Chudala’s main character understands that the only way to live according to her ambitions is to become a man. Maaria has to face difficult choices, which become the means through which she can give voice to all those women who are aware of their position and subjectivity in the Indian –and not only- political and social setting. It is not by chance that she was invited as a member of the jury at the 2017 Asia Peace Film Festival of Islamabad, in Pakistan.
2013, India/UK, 26’
Written and directed by Maaria Sayed; producer: Vidit Chitroda; photo: Eeshit Narain; editing: Maaria Sayed, Alessandro Alpini; music: Zubin Balaporia; Production Designer: Abhijeet Takur; Sound Editor: Shashank Savant
Cast: Lubna Salim (Aabida Sheikh), Dananjay Singh (Muneer Sheikh), Neha Singh (Journalist), Siddhart Dudeja (Trainee Reporter), Capt Sanjay Nath (Shekhar), Muskrat Mehboob Mumin (Neighbour)
Mumbai Women’s Int Film Festival, 2013 – Best Short Film Award, Women Voices Now (LA) 2014 – Best Film Award, Aligarh Film Festival, 2014 – Best Actress and Best Short Film Award
SYNOPSIS: One day in Aabida’s life, a Muslim widow of a policemen killed in the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, which had caused over 160 casualties. While recalling her past during an interview with a journalist, Aabida discovers that her husband’s death has in a way released her from a tyrannical and insensitive master. But will this experience of freedom be accepted by society?
2016, India, 14’
Written and directed by Maaria Syed; producer: Alessandro Alpini, Manish Mudra (Draw4Films, pres. Drishyam Films); photo: Debashis Remy Dalai; editing: Maaria Sayed, Alessandro Alpini; cast: Sanghmitra Hitaishi (Rukhsana), Sanjay Mishra (Shaukat),
Short to the Point, Romania, 2017- January Short of the Month Award, All Lights India International Film Festival, India, 2017- Honourable Mention for Best Short Film
SYNOPSIS; A Sanskrit mythological text tells the story of Chudala who takes the form of a young ascetic boy to provide her husband King Shikhidhvaja with true knowledge . Similarly Rukhsana, a Muslim young woman who wishes to communicate with her widowed father, must come back to him as Rehan, a man. But Rehan remembers having once been a woman.