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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 June 2018

New Emirati horror A Tale of Shadows lights up the big screen

The psychological horror movie set on a remote farm releases in UAE cinemas this weekend.

Tariq Alkazim the rest of the cast of A Tale of Shadows in rehearsals
Tariq Alkazim the rest of the cast of A Tale of Shadows in rehearsals

Depression was the catalyst for Emirati filmmaker Tariq Alkazim’s most recent feature film, A Tale of

Shadows. The psychological horror movie set on a remote farm releases in UAE cinemas on August 17.

Alkazim says it was a dark period in his life that provided the final chapter for a story he began writing four years ago.

“I was very stressed,” Alkazim says. “And it started causing hallucinations, I kept seeing these dark shadows. I had an unfinished story about a dying writer who goes to a remote farm to write his final book, and when I had this experience I combined the two and rewrote the story.”

The tale is as a direct result of Alkazim successfully raising a “quite big” budget, mostly from his family.

He initially intended to shoot Shadows as three interlinked short films, taking place at different times but that idea didn’t make the final cut.

“The crew just weren’t with me,” Alkazim says. “I had a set budget for each of the three shorts and they were saying ‘pull out of the other movies, just make one’.

“I had a plan to do 40 to 50 shots per day, but we were only getting eight ... that killed the film. The budget ran out and a lot of the crew left because I couldn’t pay them anymore. From a crew of about 30 people we were down to 10.”

At that point it looked like Shadows was dead in the water. That was until Alkazim and his producer decided they would make what would have been the third of the shorts by themselves with next to no funding.

The 30-minute film, Just Smile, is according to Alkazim, the best short of his career. This reinvigorated the pair and they made the final film on a shoestring budget.

“We had maybe Dh50,000. It was crazy and tiring, but thankfully the actors and the small crew we put together really got behind me and helped. It’s basically all about how much you want it.”

Shadows is a horror film about a newly arrived worker on a remote farm who is tormented by a psychotic farmer with a dark secret and a host of mysterious hooded shadows.

Alkazim hopes he has successfully brought a fresh approach to the genre. “I’m a big fan of horror, but not the jump-scare type,” he says. “I didn’t just want a group of friends going to a lake or a cabin in the woods and being attacked by a monster, then one escapes.”

Instead, he tried to bring his experience of making dramas to his most recent offering.

“I would love it if people saw horror the same way they see drama. Not just the sudden shock but also an emotional response to the characters – that’s what I’ve done in this film.”

He believes he has managed to evoke a feeling of sympathy for the villain despite the fear.

“That’s very difficult to achieve,” he says. “It gives the movie an element of mystery that keeps the audience curious – they don’t understand why this character is doing what he’s doing.”

Shadows joins a small group of locally made films that have achieved a general release.

“When I started looking for distribution, the main people I knew from watching films and festivals was Gulf Film, so I looked them up and discovered they were in the same building as the cafe where I would sit writing the script.

The fact it is in English, even though there are Arab characters, was probably beneficial,” he says, noting that his approach worked.

“But they watched it, they liked it, and they just said ‘we want to release it. How much?’”