‘Solitaire’, a film from Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt played at the DC Film Festival last week. JAADC reached out to the Jordanian co-writer and producer Nadia Eliewat about the film, her journey as a young Arab filmmaker and how Jordanians in the U.S. can help support the Jordanian film industry. Interviewed by Merissa Khurma, Public Affairs and Outreach from JAADC.
Merissa: Congratulations on 'Solitaire's' success. Tell us more about your journey writing it.
Nadia: It was just after WHEN MONALIZA SMILED was released in 2012 when Sophie Boutros (co-writer and director) and I were planning to work on a short film together. The story started as an idea for a short film and with constant development and long discussions the scope of the film became bigger and bigger. The number of characters we created grew and while weaving their tales we came to a conclusion that this film has to be a feature.
As a Jordanian with Palestinian roots, co-telling a story about people from the Levant - Lebanese and Syrians in the case of Mahbas - was not foreign for me. They speak different accents and there is also the specificity of the culture that we still all share as levantines when you look at the bigger picture.
Our project participated at the INTERCHANGE program in 2013, which is a film development lab that is acollaboration between Dubai International Film Festival and Tornio Film Lab/Italy during which we completed the first draft of the screenplay. Sophie and I shot the 5th draft of script. It is important to mention that during the ideation process we worked with Louay Khraish who is our partner in story development, and we also worked with the Italian script doctor Nicola Lusuardi through out the process.
Screenwriting for me is the most challenging phase, yet, the most exciting. During this phase you start to really understand your story and the more you explore the world of your characters in depth the more you become attach to them, they become real, they have their own existence outside the time limitation of the screenplay.
During the writing process we kept asking ourselves lots of questions, and with every answer we built confidence and we became more and more certain that this story must be told. We wanted to tell a story and acceptance and tolerance, about love during the difficult times the Arab World and the world in general is going through, and I believe we succeeded.
Merissa: Why did you decide to become a filmmaker?
Nadia: When I was still in fifth grade I wanted to become a theater director, I don't think that I understood what directing was at that point, but I was fascinated by the idea of telling stories on stage for an audience. My father wanted me to become an architect and then we came to an agreement in between (Visual Arts). I joined the college of Arts and Design at Jordan University in 2002 and I made use of every credit possible outside my core courses to study theater. My passion for storytelling started taking a different shape after I was equipped with the Visual Arts tools and knowledge.
After graduation, I took short filmmaking courses at the Royal Film Commission and these opened my mind to different possibilities and ways to tell stories. I then joined The Red Sea Institute of Cinematic Arts in 2008 where I pursued my higher education in Cinematic Arts with specific focus on Screenwriting and Producing.
I don't recall making a conscious decision about becoming a filmmaker, I don't think you decide to become one, I just started studying and learning more, experimenting and making films.
Merissa: How can Jordanians in the U.S. help in supporting Jordanian filmmakers like you?
Nadia: By following up, watching the films we make whenever possible and spread the word around them.
Merissa: What message do you have to American audiences about the budding Jordanian and Arab film industry?
Nadia: There are lots of great stories coming out from Jordan and the Arab world, I extend an invitation for you to listen to those stories about real people who do speak a different language yet can touch your hearts and minds deeply.
About Nadia Eliewat
Nadia is a film producer and screenwriter whose passion lies in finding new stories to tell and helping create new voices through education. Through her Jordan based Production Company (Screen Project), Nadia produces films in the MENA region for the purpose of theatrical release.
In 2012 Nadia Produced the award winning Jordanian feature film When Monaliza Smiled for Fadi G. Haddad, the film had its International premiere at Dubai International Film Festival in 2012 and was theatrically released in Jordan and Morocco.
Nadia co-wrote and produced the Lebanese box office hit MAHBAS (Solitaire) with co-writer/director Sophie Boutros. After the film world premiere at Dubai International Film Festival 2016, Mahbas is having a very successful theatrical release in the MENA region with over 100,000 admissions.
Nadia holds the title of Associate Professor at the American University in Dubai where she has been teaching screenwriting and production since 2010.