Sun 29 Sep 2019

BoostNL Selection 2019: The Station

“This story has very personal resonance for me as a Yemeni woman who has experienced the war in Yemen and the way society has been fractured because of the civil war, because of people justifying the fighting, justifying their positions in the war and not realising their own responsibilities in keeping the war going,” stresses Yemeni-Scottish filmmaker Sara Ishaq of her debut feature The Station.

In the film, the pro-militia Zainab, the mother of a ‘martyr’, clashes with her pacifist niece Layal while attempting to send recruits to the frontline of battle.

“Obviously there are external factors which make it difficult for people to realise that they  are part of the problem,” she adds. “It was really important to try and put it into a story to make it simpler for people, and also myself. I think it was really about me trying to understand how people are driven to do certain things and take certain actions when they are living in a war zone, and to what extent they can be held accountable for continuing this problem.”

The project is supported by the Hubert Bals Fund and the Jordanian Film Fund. Amsterdam-based Ishaq and producer Nadia Eliewat hope the film will be a Netherlands/France (and possibly German) co-production. Ishaq stressed that they are applying to Arab funds for production support and are looking to raise “a large chunk” of the €1million budget from private investment within the Arab region.

At Boost NL they are looking for feedback on the screenplay ahead of a second draft. A major part of the HFM offer is a three-hour session with an acting coach who specialises in improvisation. “This is something I need to work on as I have never directed non-actors before… Coming from a documentary background I want it to be really authentic and for it to have a documentary feel about it,” comments Ishaq.

“It is a film about women,” she adds.

“It is a film about fuel and fuel dependency. It is a film about women really trying to hold society together while men are fighting this war, but also about [women] being a major part of the problem because they are raising their sons in a certain way, supporting the war and allowing the patriarchy and patriarchal rules, customs and ways of life to continue to dictate. Even if the men are not there the women are still being driven by these precepts.”

“I want to challenge a lot of these ideas at a moment when society and families are falling apart, and with this division between north and south and people labelling everybody. It all happened very quickly, it was brewing under the surface for a long time, but this war was the spark that basically made the whole thing blow up. For me it was important to figure out why we are all responding this way, how we can maybe hold it together and take a step back and look at the long terms effects of this situation.”

Written by Nick Cunningham