If you have read my previous posts, you might have known that (1) I submitted my short film ‘Nur’ to Mokhtar Awards, a festival in Paris. I think I should write a post to update what has happened.
For (1), I was happy to announce that my film was not only selected for screening in Paris, but also won the second prize of the fiction category. To tell the truth, my trailer didn’t have many votes at the first round (perhaps it didn’t look attractive enough), so I speculate that my film was selected by the jury. Whatever reason was, ahamdulilah it was chosen and screened to a Parisian audience, and ahamdulilah people seemed to enjoy the film and voted for it to win the second prize. Later I also read some comments of the people who watched ‘Nur’, and to be honest, these comments are probably the sweetest fruits, the most precious gifts that Allah granted me. Some commenters said that they could relate to the message of the film, whilst some expressed their amazement at the miraculous and perfect works of God that they sometimes neglected or took for granted. Because the purpose of making Nur is to share my thoughts to others, receiving these feedbacks made me feel like these I was gaining some new friends who understand my amazement at the Book of the Universe. Ahamdulilah for the opportunity. Without God, none of this can be done. All Glory be to Him.
Then, the Paris massacre happened. On 3 January, 2015, Chief and Said Kouachi, two radical Muslims dashed into the office of Charles Hebdo, a famous satire magazine in France, and shot 12 people, including the magazine’s staff and guards. Once again, the media turned to Islam, framing the religion as a clash of civilisation, a violation of freedom of speech. Although politicians and journalists have carefully used the word ‘extremist Muslims’ or ‘Islamism’ to distinguish these terrorists from ordinary Muslims, the overwhelming presence of Islam in the news can still create the impression that Islam is the source of murder, conflicts and intolerance. Even the phrase ‘God is the Greatest’, which is used by Muslims to glorify God and display our humbleness, becomes a symbol of extremism and terror, as it is associated with the phrases the two terrorists uttered before they die.
It was ironic that the event happened in Paris and just one week after the Mokhtar Awards. It was ironic that the film I made was about a Muslim girl appreciating ordinary moments of life, and yet one week later Chief and Said blew up innocent lives. It was ironic that my film was about a loving, merciful, wise and creative God, yet Chief and Said seemed to represent God as a nasty, cruel and violent Being. It was ironic that my film was little known, and yet the voices of Chief and Said seemed to dominate the discourses about Islam.
To tell you the truth, I felt quite depressed. Although I never expected my film to make any significant impact, seeing my little effort immediately swept out by the destructive force did make me feel discouraged. It was like I was trying to light up a candle, while the wind kept blowing it out. However, as I calmed myself and thought about this situation more objectively, I realized that I had again focused too much on the results, which are, after all, not controlled by me. I realized in the moments of that depression, I might have lost my sincerity because I was so concerned with worldly achievements. I realize I acted so ungratefully, forgetting that without God’s permission, I would not have been able to finish this film from the first place. At that moment, I cannot help saying “Ahamdulilah”: thank you for giving me the opportunity to know, learn and love you; thank you for allowing me to express it through visual storytelling. For that alone, I am deeply grateful.
Thus, if you ask me what was the hardest part of making Nur, I would say that keeping your intentions pure was the most challenging. Sometimes you start with a clear intention that you do something for God, but at any moment, you can taint that intention by allowing the voice of your ‘instinctual soul’ to dominate. That is to say, success and results become your concerns even though they should not be. Well, I don’t say you should not care about the outcomes when planning and doing a project. In contrast, you should try your best to make whatever you do most effective and efficient. However, when you begin to complain (to God) because things don’t go accordingly to what you plan and expect, you are behaving arrogantly, unjustly and ungratefully. And when you forget the wisdom of “God’s willing” (InshaAllah) you end up being miserable and hopeless than any creature.
It’s interesting that even now, I cannot confidently say I am sincere. It’s hard to evaluate your own soul which is always changing. So I choose to be self-critical. After all, with your tricky instinctual soul (nefis), you must be.
So do not represent yourselves as righteous, for He knows best who fears Him. Qur’an 53:32
I must have talked so much.
Anyway, this is the film Nur. English and French subtitles available. Enjoy!