Arts & Culture

Ahmed Al Kuwaiti: How his latest film captures the spirit of Bahrain

Shot in only three days, the filming was complete only weeks before the country went into lockdown.

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By Manar Al Hinai

If you are an arts and culture enthusiast, then Ahmed Al Kuwaiti is a name you want to have on your radar. The 24-year-old filmmaker and photographer’s work depicts identity, nostalgia, pop culture, and people of Bahrain and the wider Arab Gulf States.

His latest short film, was chosen for the opening of “Ta’a Al Shabab”-one of Bahrain’s largest youth cultural festivals held by Bahrain Authority For Culture and Antiquities last February, before social distancing measures were implemented.

Now in its 11th edition, the month-long festival aims to involve the youth in culture, highlighting people and activities in literature, theatre, music, and human science among others.

Bahraini filmmaker and photographer Ahmed Al Kuwaiti. Image: Ola Allouz.

The theme for this year’s festival was Density in Bahrain, where Ahmed and his team of an all Bahraini 6 crew members were asked to portray how living in the small island country feels, smells, and sounds like. Three days of filming last February, across Bahrain’s towns and villages from Jao, Bar Bar, Manama, Karbabad, Muharraq, to the Diplomatic Area in Manama. Ahmed’s film was sponsored by the festival and Bahrain Authority For Culture and Antiquities.

The unique film which is narrated through a song, follows the story of a young woman, from her childhood home and trip down her memory lane. The lead character then leaves her house and passes through the different areas of Bahrain to reach a rooftop of one of the buildings in Bahrain’s Diplomatic Area, in Bahrain, where Ta’a Al Shabab festival is held. As she passes through the different areas of Bahrain from the desert, to the sea, and to the road, we get a glimpse of Bahrain’s diverse and rich culture, as well as diverse population; a take on this year’s festival theme.

Ahmed Al Kuwaiti’s latest film. You can watch it in the link above.

I speak to the young filmmaker about the inspiration behind his movie and what we need to do to encourage more filmmakers from the Arab Gulf States to produce films. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Manar Al Hinai: The film features Bahraini artist Dalal Al Najem mainly. Is she the embodiment of Bahrain or Bahrain’s spirit?

Ahmed Al Kuwaiti: Dalal is a young Bahraini artist and a fellow filmmaker. As soon as I handled the project and thought of the story, I reached her and offered her to be part of the project and participate as the lead character in the film. As a team, we knew that the main character in the film should be someone who truly represents the youth in Bahrain. Therefore, she believed in the project and also became a part of the behind the scenes of the film, which she Edited the film and where she worked on the art direction with me. 

Behind the scenes shot from the film. Images provided by Ahmed Al Kuwaiti. Click on each image to enlarge it.

Manar Al Hinai: Why did you choose to narrate the film in a song instead of spoken word?

Ahmed Al Kuwaiti: The storyline and the visuals’ storyboard inspired us to turn the poem by Malak Latif to a song that represents us all. The musical part of the project was handled by Mohammed Al Hasan, a Bahraini Musician. Mohammed is one of the best musicians in Bahrain. As soon as we presented our idea and poem to Mohammed, he believed in the project and gave his all to compose a beautiful song where he combined the voice of Hind Dito, the singer, and narrator Malak Latif in one song.

From right to left: Eisa Hujairy (production team), Dalal Al Najem (film star), Kawthar Dashti (production team), and Ahmed Al Kuwaiti (Director). Image: Ahmed Al Kuwaiti.

Manar Al Hinai: What are certain qualities that make a film great for you?

Ahmed Al Kuwaiti: Definitely the story.

Manar Al Hinai: What do we need to do to encourage more filmmakers from the GCC to produce films?

Ahmed Al Kuwaiti: I would encourage them to focus more on the story, to present what they feel, and to bring their stories to the big screen. Also, I would encourage them to never miss an opportunity. As a young filmmaker, I took part in many projects and took many small roles. Step by step, I learned how it all works and how to create the right beautiful film.

Manar Al Hinai is the Storyteller-in-Chief of Sekka.

The views of the authors and writers who contribute to Sekka, and the views of the interviewees who are featured in Sekka, do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sekka, its parent company, its owners, employees and affiliates.