Lend them your ears
The fifth edition of Abu Dhabi Film Festival is doubling up as a space to dispel misconceptions. On a superficial level, the mixed martial arts drama Fightville and the Arabic drama Asma'a have nothing in common. While the latter Hind Sabri drama deals with a social outcast — a woman diagnosed as HIV positive — the former is all about what it takes to beat your opponents to a pulp.
However, when tabloid! caught up with the principal players of these two films, we found that both wanted to be heard and heard right through their films. Here are excerpts from our conversations.
Tim Credeur: UFC champion and protagonist of Fightville
If you were to hear Credeur speak about his favourite sport, you would think that he was talking up yoga.
"Through this, I learnt a lot about discipline, integrity, honour, loyalty and commitment — something that I didn't learn in school," said Credeur.
The 34-year-old fighter was referring to the highly controversial yet hugely popular combat sport, mixed martial arts or MMA. Many paint this combination of boxing, wrestling and jiu-jitsu as nothing more than the human equivalent of dog fighting. But the American athlete is convinced his documentary will shatter stereotypes.
"Many people walk into the theatre expecting blood and gore. But what the documentary essentially shows is the discipline and the sacrifice that goes into excelling in something that you believe in."
And sacrifice he surely has. His hands are gnarled and he has "cauliflower ear", an injury which shows an eroded outer ear, to bear testimony to his struggles.
"It's a small price to pay for the benefits I have received."
The documentary is not all violence, and is an intellectual exercise, claims Credeur.
"To immediately assume that anyone who participates in a sport like ours must be animalist is a naive and simplistic way of looking at things. Actually, it's more like playing chess, but with people."
The sport, which was banned in many places in the 1990s, has now become a popular spectator sports, even in the UAE.
"The documentary does champion our sport but the movie speaks on a much more universal level about what it takes to really achieve success."
To a large extent he has succeeded, because after the screening, several mothers with teenagers came up him to discuss the discipline aspect of MMA.
"With this film we want to show that this sport is technical with little emotion attached to it. Yes it's an expressive sort, but it's not angry or malicious."
Bushra: Executive producer of Asma'a
Egyptian actress Bushra is not a stranger to criticism and extreme emotions. After all, her 2010 drama 678, which explored the taboo topic of sexual harassment, won her the best actress gong from the Dubai International Film Festival — but it also meant she had to face a lawsuit accusing her of tarnishing the reputation of Egypt with the film and her character. (The court ruled in her favour.)
She may be off the hook, but the actress is back with another dose of reality.
This time around, she is not the leading lady but in the background pushing Asma'a. Billed as a tale of resilience and triumph of human spirit, the film, directed by Amr Salama, deals with an HIV-positive woman struggling to survive in society.
"We are talking about a subject that is unspoken about. HIV/Aids is a social disease — it's an epidemic where you are not only fighting the disease but also the society around you," she said.
"In the Arab world, we have so little information about it. We try and avoid talking about it. This movie will make you think."
According to Bushra, people are not concerned about the plight of the affected and are quick to think the worst of them.
"You know a woman has HIV/Aids and you assume that she has done something illegal to contract it. She is immediately brandished as a bad person — the whole connotation is so negative."
To get the project going, she also solicited the support of UNAIDS. "The main idea behind the film is to show that anybody has a right to be medically treated, just like stomach ache or cancer. It's that belief that made me support such a film."
So wasn't she tempted to star in a subject that she's so obviously passionate about? "It's not important that I star in every movie I produce," she said.
"The question is, when you adopt a cause, do you have the tools to bring it to people. And with this we have proved that we do have a weapon — a powerful film."