Leeds Met graduate wins filmmaking award at Dubai International Film Festival
Talal Al-Muhanna, who undertook both his BA and MA degrees at The Northern Film School at Leeds Met, put forward the script for the feature length fictional film, before it was shortlisted, then selected as the winner of the prestigious IWC Schaffhausen Filmmaker Award at the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) in December.
Oscar winner Blanchett, headed up the jury that awarded the project development prize for the film, which will be directed by acclaimed Iraqi-born, UK-based documentary director, Maysoon Pachachi.
Currently based back in his home country of Kuwait, Talal, said: "The award ceremony was amazing - red carpet, paparazzi, fancy dinner party and a post-ceremony concert with Bryan Ferry! I am thrilled that the script for 'Nothing Doing in Baghdad' was selected. The prize money will be invested into the production of the film, for which we have a complete screenplay of about 110 pages. It has been co-written by Baghdad-based novelist Irada Al Jabbouri along with Maysoon, the director, who I first came to know at a film festival in Dubai and whose films I have watched and admired over the years.
"Like the co-writer, the plot centres on a female novelist and single mother who lives in a typically mixed Baghdadi neighbourhood and who is struggling to live through what was then, in 2006 one of the worst years on record in terms of daily violence in Iraq. It is set in the final days of that year, beginning on Christmas Eve and ending on the dawn of the day in which Saddam Hussein was executed."
Since graduating from the Leeds Metropolitan Film and Moving Image Production MA course in 2008, Talal has collaborated on several award-winning documentary productions as a producer - films that have screened internationally at festivals in Toronto, Doha, Yamagata in Japan, Paris, Madrid and Alfilm Arab Film Festival in Berlin.
"If there was one bit of advice I might give to filmmaking students nowadays, it would be to not only focus on the creative side of things and building production skills but also to try and learn more about funding mechanisms in your region and in other countries," commented Talal. "Since leaving Leeds Met, I have sourced and received support for film projects from places as close to where I am based as Dubai and Abu Dhabi and Qatar but also further away, in Canada, Holland and France. So understanding how a patchwork quilt of film funds can be put together to produce a feature is essential for emerging producers."
Head of Leeds Met's School of Film, Music and Performing Arts, Andrew Fryer, added: "We are absolutely delighted to hear that Talal's hard work and dedication to his art is gaining the international recognition it deserves. His work is repeatedly being recognised and celebrated by some of the best known people in the film industry and he is truly a great role model and an inspiration to our current students."