Zenofer Fathima returned to the director’s chair following a hiatus as she released ‘A Dark Tale’ in July. The short film, which officially premiered at Marriott Hotel in Al Jaddaf, Dubai, this week, aims to raise awareness of the realities of domestic partner violence being a leading contributor to illness, disability and premature death of women. Fathima uses her own film production outfit, Zen Productions, to bring her concepts to life.
DS: Tell us about your new short film ‘A Dark Tale’
ZF: A Dark Tale’ depicts a day in the life of a young couple who seem to have the perfect marriage. An ordinary, innocuous conversation at home between the two quickly gets contentious as it turned out the husband has some serious control and rage issues. Domestic violence is an ugly truth that is not being taken seriously even now. Some still have the mindset that family violence is a mere relationship problem that should be kept private. When in fact it’s a twisted reality, where women especially are made to believe that love and pain go hand in hand. It is rarely discussed in polite company but is prevalent everywhere. Domestic violence and abuse across all age, race and economic boundaries is a concern and ‘A Dark Tale’ aims to expose and examine this crucial issue.
DS: How did you get into film making, what’s your mid-term plan?
ZF: Growing up, movies and entertainment were my passion, but as with most matters priorities got in the way. As a mother my first priority was towards my children and family. Now I have finally taken steps to fuel my passion and its been a fantastic few years. My short films, with its social awareness agenda, is a way for me to contribute towards the society I live in.
As for my midterm plans, they involve a musical album and a full-length commercial production. I am also looking at offers to star in other movies, so its pretty much what fits my schedule, but my short films and awareness will continue.
DS: Tell us a bit about the film making process you followed for ‘The Dark Tale’
ZF All of my movies start with me. I pick topics that resonate with me or I might pick up on something I have seen or heard. I work with people in India and the US who contribute towards the script, but the final approval of sorts is always me. Then comes the visualisation and planning which I take upon myself, as a producer, actor and director. I have a team who handles post production, but again I am heavily involved on every aspect of my movies and projects. Budgeting and finance are also another crucial component as its the bedrock of film making. I secure my funds through well-wishers and patrons who have been kind enough to help me along the way.
DS: What drives you towards producing cinema on social issues?
ZF: Movies are a medium for spreading awareness about social issues, and its more engaging than any other format. It allows me to reach the audience at a higher level and stimulate responses that drive conversation about the social issues. Cinema is my life and if I have a chance to use the medium to give back to society, then why not?
DS: What are your views on empowerment and social responsibility as a filmmaker?
ZF: I believe as part of an industry that has a significant influence over the society, it is very important for us to spread the right messages and to use our platform responsibly. Personally, I am very spiritual — not just in a religious way, but also in the way I conduct my life every day. I want to see society progress, especially as a mother I see the horrors out there that can affect our children. This is proven when I get feedback from scholars and healers about my short films — they have told me how movies like these really help people feel included. They also help raise awareness about different problems in the society and encourage conversation around the same.
DS: What are the challenges you’ve encountered as a woman filmmaker and an actor?
ZF: As an actor I would have say it is the roles, finding one that draws you in and makes you believe in the character can be hard. As a producer it has to be funding and getting people to back you up. However, I believe in gender roles as I feel this is the best way to express what needs to be said so that people and society listens.
DS: Tell us about UAE’s appeal for filmmakers?
ZF: The UAE has become immensely popular in the last decade as a prime location for filming, with many big budget projects using locations across the country. What makes UAE stand out is the variety of landscapes available and their welcoming people.
DS: What’s next for Zen Productions, what are your aspirations?
ZF: I have a few movies and even a new directorial pursuit titled ‘The Bad Touch’ that are lined up. We even have a workshop / casting call set in the start of August, for which we will be bringing some well-known names from the industry. The aim is to encourage the acting talent within the country and provide them with the opportunity to learn from some of the best.