-The Esquire 100 - Meshal Al Jaser
One of Esquire's favourite local directors talks movies, film in Saudi Arabia and what's next for him:
What made you want to become a filmmaker?
I’m passionate about things that I care about, and because of that I can come across as quite opinionated. I’m aware that they clash with my society, however, my lack of vocabulary in formal Arabic makes it hard for me to express what I’m trying to say to my people in an educated manner. What film does is give me the ability to express my opinion in an artistic way. Filmmaking is like therapy to me, it makes me feel better.
What sort of stories do you want to tell?
I love to focus on minorities, because more often than not they’re the ones who struggle to have their voices heard, and I believe that their stories deserve to be heard. Primarily, I like to tell stories that reflect the Middle East in an authentic way. I believe the region has always been portrayed wrong in the history of Western cinema.
Do you think there is added pressure on you being Saudi?
I believe it is beneficial, but also very stressful to be a Saudi filmmaker today. It is great because we will be the first generation of filmmakers from the country, but that is what adds to the pressure. We will be setting the standard going forward for Saudi cinema. I really hope this generation doesn’t make horrible films, but I’ve seen some very talented Saudis and I’m very optimistic and confident that we have the ability to do great things.
What is the biggest misconceptions of Arabic language cinema?
I think the misconception about Arabic cinema is that it is too conservative. I think people should watch the right filmmakers to understand that directors from the Middle East are some of the most edgy artists in the world, as they risk telling their stories even though they live in environments that don’t allow freedom of speech.
Is it exciting time to be an Arab filmmaker now?
It is an overwhelming experience to be an Arab filmmaker at this time.