While the previous 5-minute film was an outcome within itself, I wanted to expand on my personal journey in the process. Several interpretations and personal point of views seemed to cloud the narrative of our previous film, so I wanted to stay true to my own. The process of collaborating with Saki and Momo was very insightful because it tackled the challenge of trying to make work for various audiences. We were each other’s audience, so we were able to test out all of our ideas while reflecting on the varying interpretations. 

MENA Arts UK put a call out for their commission competition with the brief of making a one-minute film that addressed what brings the MENA-identifying people together. My concept pitch revolved around the dilemma of being foreign to one’s own culture because you grew up or live somewhere else, but are seeking to re-connect with your cultural heritage. I spoke about the idea of model-making as a way to navigate an idealised space that represents my culture but also not having people to represent how I am not able to be there. 

I was mentored by the co-chairs of MENA Arts UK, Kerry and Sepy, who resonated with my concept as Third Culture Kid-ism. I am a Third Culture Kid in the way that I am of one nationality, I grew up in a different country, and I currently live in a different country. I realised that many of the members of the organisation may feel the same. And while I was focusing on my Syrian heritage, the film aimed to be about process rather than Syria. For my first draft, I just attempted to condense the 5-minute film into 1-minute as a way of testing the waters and seeing what Kerry and Sepy would react to. We quickly established, as I expected, the shoes walking around the space was much more successful because it gave a sense of discovering, while the objects of the coffee & the boardgame did not support my concept anymore. Kerry encouraged me to not be ashamed of showing the model and the mess of the process. And I also had to answer the question of what the hands removing the furniture meant. 

After removing the coffee & boardgame scenes, it all started to fit together. I experimented with how the footage of the hands came in and when; this resembled glitches in the serenity of the stop-motion segments. After seeing that, it reminded me of a vital part of the process that I was too scared to admit happened. While I was designing the house, I felt these occassional gaps in my thinking because I would reach a point where I did not know something. And talking to my great aunt and grandmother about their experiences in the houses they’ve been to, they would have these pauses of trying to remember their grandparents home. So it became a representation of the challenging learning process.  

The film was screened at the end of March with a post-show Q&A where I got to talk about how being a Third Culture Kid has distanced me from my cultural heritage but also encouraged me to explore culture. I was also asked about the model-making which to me was a way of solving geographical restrictions. When asked about the glitches and the ending, I especially wanted to leave it on a inconclusive note because I am still learning about it and this was just step one.

If I was given the chance to improve this film, I would definitely explore that relationship between life-size and scale. The one-minute restriction was already a challenge in itself to make the film eye-catching, entertaining, and immersive so I did not want to clutter. But, that said, there’s always room to expand and explore other dimensions or parts of the culture through more models. 

© Jida Akil 2024