Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 2 July 2020

'It's a big achievement': How UAE-made film 'L'Attente' has reached a huge audience in India

The short film is the first locally made production to be added to the Indian streaming service

'L'Attente', which made its debut in 2016, has raked in a number of awards locally and internationally. Ashish Varghese
'L'Attente', which made its debut in 2016, has raked in a number of awards locally and internationally. Ashish Varghese

L’Attente has become the first locally made film to be featured on Disney+ Hotstar, one of the largest streaming services in India.

The 14-minute short, which is centred around a conversation between an old man and a cafe manager, was shot in a now-closed Dubai cafe in 2015.

The film begins with Dev (Mohammed Ali) entering the cafe, before he is accosted by Khaled (Arjun Raman). The film is carried predominantly by the conversation between the two characters.

'L’attente' was shot in 2015 in a now-closed cafe at Oasis Mall.  Ashish Varghese
'L’Attente' was shot in 2015 in a now-closed cafe at Oasis Mall. Ashish Varghese

“During the course of the film, we understand a common thread linking them which forms the crux of the plot,” director Ashish Varghese says.

The film, which made its debut in 2016, has raked in a number of awards locally and internationally. The film won the Award of Merit in the Best Shorts Competition in California in 2016. That same year, it won the Best Film Award in the Battle of the Best, whereas Ali won the Best Actor title. The film also won awards for Best Music and Best Director in the 2017 UAE Short Film Award.

Varghese is ecstatic that the film is now available to 1.4 billion people thanks to Disney+ Hotstar, adding that it could help open doors for local filmmakers abroad.

“It is a big achievement for the UAE film fraternity and a window to a lot more films to be accepted from this region,” he says, adding that L’Attente is now being considered for the Amazon Prime catalogue.

L’Attente was shot in 2015 in a now-closed cafe at Oasis Mall called Balance Cafe. The eatery, Varghese says, is as much a character in the film as its protagonists.

“We approached several cafes around the city at first, but they were all charging outrageous sums. Finally, we got lucky with Balance, which made for a perfect location with its red backdrop as the film is about love.”

'L'attente' director and writer Ashish Varghese (right) and cinematographer Daniel Tudano. Ashish Varghese 
'L'attente' director and writer Ashish Varghese (right) and cinematographer Daniel Tudano. Ashish Varghese

Varghese says the film was shot in two days over the course of two months, due to the conflicting work schedules of its cast and crew.

“We all have day jobs and this was a passion project. Raman works as a banker, while Ali is the founder of the Kreative Company. So it took some time to align all our schedules,” Varghese, who is the head of film production at an advertising agency in Dubai, says.

"We went through various cast choices before we locked on Ali,” Varghese says, adding that he knew early on that he wanted Raman for the role of Khaled.

“All Raman had to do was put on a suit, and he already exuded the confidence that we wanted for the character.”

The film’s post production took a year to complete, mostly because Varghese was trying to find a song that would best encapsulate the wistful mood at the beginning of the film

“We initially reached out to Carla Bruni to lend her rights for Chanson Triste but since we didn’t get an update or feedback we kept searching for unknown talents,” Varghese says, adding that they eventually came across French musician Clarisse Dubois, who composed the song You for the film.

“The second song is by Vietnamese composer Jay Bach, and was a perfect way to conclude the movie.”

As to why the title is in French, the director says that while the film features two Indian actor and takes place in English, the off-screen character at the heart of the story, Farah, had a special interest in the language.

“The cafe is also called Le Moulin and the menu is in French. The menu is an important plot device,” Varghese says, careful not to reveal more as to not spoil the twist at the end of the film.

Updated: June 22, 2020 12:03 PM

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