Saudi filmmaker Malik Nejer discusses his film ‘Head to Head’ and his ambitions for future work
DUBAI: Few within the Saudi leisure trade know the view from the highest fairly in addition to visionary filmmaker Malik Nejer. His beloved animated sequence “Masameer County” is extra common than ever, greater than a decade faraway from its humble YouTube beginnings, having conquered each the native field workplace and international streaming. However what do you do when you’ve reached the height? For Nejer, the reply was easy: discover one other.
With the brand new Netflix movie “Head to Head,” Nejer has ventured into uncharted territory for him, directing his first live-action mission from a script by his long-time collaborator and Myrcott Animation Studio co-founder Abdulaziz Almuzaini. Whereas the daring aesthetics and madcap sensibility will really feel acquainted to his legion of followers, the transfer out of the animated world was a tough check for the 38-year-old storyteller, and one that may perpetually change his method.
“It really gave me big respect for my colleagues who’re doing live-action (movies), as a result of the logistics of this factor are a nightmare. In animation, it’s solely a query of money and time. However with live-action, you possibly can’t simply throw cash at one thing and count on it to get higher. There’s a lot that may go flawed,” Nejer tells Arab Information.
“However relatively than deter me, these limitations ignited my creativity. I grew to become fascinated by all the issues that wanted to be solved, and that wrestle goes to tell my work going ahead, each animated and live-action. I’m going to place limitations (on it) and see what occurs,” he continues.
“Head to Head”, (Ras B Ras in Arabic), is about within the fictional Saudi metropolis of Bathaika. If Riyadh is the nation’s New York, then that is its Gotham Metropolis, a darkish fantasy conceived by Almuzaini that allowed Nejer’s creativity to run wild.
“This was a piece of beautiful creativeness, from high to backside. It was a totally realized world,” says star Adel Radwan, who performs one in every of three bumbling heroes making an attempt to navigate the lawless metropolis. “The artwork path, the costumes, the colours, every thing. Even for us within the forged, we have been dazzled by every thing round us whereas on set. Each single element, from the names of the road indicators and retailers to the costumes of the patrons, was one thing particular.”
The problem of making the world was an surprising one for Nejer. Initially, the movie was purported to mark Almuzaini’s first main mission impartial from Nejer together with his new manufacturing firm Sirb. When he received the decision, he was initially resistant, finally satisfied as a result of he knew in addition to the producers did that nobody understood Almuzaini’s distinctive imaginative and prescient fairly like he did.
“This movie discovered me — I didn’t go trying to find it,” he says. “However I stated to myself, ‘Regardless that this isn’t my story, I’m going to do my finest to direct it and hopefully put one thing of myself in it, too. My staff wants me, and I can’t allow them to down.’”
To make the transition much less daunting, Nejer’s first transfer was to create your entire movie within the medium he’s most conversant in, then use that because the template for what he created on set.
“We really animated your entire movie, an hour-and-a-half of it. That was vastly useful for me, as a result of we have been in a position to check every thing from a storytelling perspective, after which throw all of it within the bin and begin from scratch understanding precisely what we have been going for,” says Nejer.
The director continued to lean on his inventive abilities all through manufacturing, together with his sturdy visible sense serving to to create an immediately recognizable search for every of the lead characters.
“What actually helped us make these characters so iconic is Malik’s drawing expertise,” says Radwan. “Regardless that he had already imagined how the characters would look normally, every one in every of us had an entire day to attempt each attainable outfit and look. Malik would then enter and go, ‘No, not that one.’ Nothing labored proper till we tried what he had drawn. Every time we lastly did, that was the second after we would say, ‘That is the one.’”
For Radwan and fellow stars Abdulaziz Alshehri and Ziyad Alamri, Nejer’s insightful directing model helped them unlock features of their characters that hadn’t been clear simply from studying the script.
“Malik helped us by evaluating every character to an animal, and that helped us so much in figuring them out,” says Radwan.
“We’d apply it throughout rehearsal, and it gave us a lot extra confidence. I used to be a lion,” provides Alshehri.
“I used to be a porcupine. Adel was a panda!” says Alamri with amusing.
As joyful because the expertise was for Nejer, who reveled within the absurdity that Bathaika demanded from him, he sees the movie as a enjoyable train relatively than an exemplar of the work he’ll make sooner or later. At 38, Nejer is involved in making movies which are extra mature than the fabric that excited him as a younger man. He sees himself transferring into the world of drama subsequent.
“I feel my profession will find yourself having an analogous trajectory to filmmakers like Adam McKay and Todd Phillips, who spent years making films like ‘Step Brothers’ and ‘The Hangover’ respectively earlier than transferring into award-winning initiatives like ‘The Huge Brief’ and ‘Joker’ as they received older,” says Nejer.
These examples, nevertheless, don’t paint the right picture of what he aspires to. Nejer doesn’t lust after Oscar gold, and has no actual aspirations within the arthouse world both. What he needs, as a substitute, is to inform tales which are extra private to him and the experiences he had rising up exterior of Riyadh.
“That is simpler stated than achieved, in fact. The market has an urge for food for movies geared toward huge field workplace, and there’s at all times a spot for small pageant movies, however pure drama? That’s a troublesome ask in the intervening time. Nonetheless, that’s the place my coronary heart is. I grew up in a area ridden with trauma, and there’s a number of issues I wish to course of by my work,” says Nejer.
“I feel I’m at a stage in my life the place I’ve had sufficient industrial success to be ok with myself, and I don’t have aspirations to be a world-renowned director. I’m very fortunate to be on this place and have so many individuals supporting me, and I need to use that to inform private tales. Possibly I attempt that for 5 years after which I am going again to pure comedy, however proper now I need to experiment on a deeper degree. There’s a lot buried deep within the coronary heart of Saudi Arabia that I have to discover.”