In 2014, I moved to Los Angeles with my then girlfriend, a Saudi Arabian Muslim woman, to pursue our dreams. She would become a doctor and I would make films. Or so I thought. After two weeks of living together, she kicked me out and that dream was shattered. We attempted to salvage the relationship but her family secrets eventually interfered, resulting in one of the worst nights of my life. Edible takes place the night we tried an edible marijuana cookie. It is a true account of the events that took place over a 24 hour period. The film explores themes like: cultural isolation, trust, identity, sexuality, and loss of control.
My goal for this film is twofold. On the personal level, I am hoping to transform the trauma associated with that relationship. I also hope this film will spark a dialogue around Arab women’s rights, sexuality, and the LGBT Arab community who in most cases are rejected by their families, imprisoned, or even sentenced to death. But there is hope for progress. On September 26 2017, for the first time in history, Saudi Arabia allowed women to drive. Recently the Kingdom has rolled back restrictions on the arts and even reopened cinemas.
Edible will feature poems from Nizar Kabbani, one of the Arab World’s most esteemed poets, because I would often write her poems in Arabic; attempting to bridge the language barrier, since her English was not very strong. The film will also feature what is considered the “Crown of the Arab Song” Al-Atlal (The Ruins). Originally recorded in 1966 by world-famous Egyptian singer Oum Kalthoum, the song is a combination of two poems by Egyptian poet Ibrahim Nagi. Link to Al-Atlal performed by Amal Maher .
I am fortunate to come from a diverse background that directly influences my work. I was born in Queens, NYC, but my family moved to rural Georgia when I was 11. I completed my B.A. in Creative Writing at Georgia State University before earning my M.F.A in Film and Media Arts at Temple University. I currently work in production at DreamWorks Animation and for an independent documentary production company, Night Fire Films.
At Temple, I studied under Rodney Evans, who introduced me to the improvisational directing style that is now integral to the way I work with actors. I plan to employ this same approach in Edible. The script is used as a guide, but the actors are encouraged to delve deep into their characters and situation in order to generate a more authentic performance. For example, the actress that plays Celeste will physically write the poems in Arabic, making the reactions more realistic when her handwriting is mocked. Additionally, the Arabic dialogue will be developed by the actresses themselves.
The prototype for Sara is a well known Saudi woman, who is willing to champion the LGBT Arab community. I realize that this might be difficult to find, so I am open to actresses from other countries, so long as they speak arabic. I anticipate completing principal photography by the end of Summer 2020. This will give me time to complete post production and submit to top tier film festivals.
It is also important that the film crew be exclusively women/queer/trans, for two reasons. I want to support other women in the film and entertainment industry; secondly, the narrative calls for it. It would be impossible to capture the intimacy of the two characters’ relationship under the male gaze on typical film sets. Ideally, there would be a two camera setup, in order to capture the organic moments between dialogue and action. This will allow performances to stand out, and to give more coverage in the editing room.
One other important element for filming is the location. The entirety of the production will be shot in a luxury style apartment complex. This aspect is crucial because when Sara wanders the hallways, every corridor looks the same adding to the disorientation caused by the edible. The Orsini complex in downtown LA is a great example, and my first choice because that is where the events actually took place. It provides the appropriate visuals and a robust soundscape. Link to Orsini Tour.