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Interview – Noor Gharzeddine – ‘Are You Glad I’m Here’ – A Feature Film

 

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Posted June 2, 2018 by

 
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Interview – Noor Gharzeddine

Noor Gharzeddine’s debut feature is a must see, exploring gender roles and domestic violence through a cultural lens. This gripping and tender feature was written by Samuel Cyrenius Anderson.  A month into its festival run, Are You Glad I’m Here has already shown at Atlanta Film Festival, Riverrun International Film Festival and is about to screen at Brooklyn Film Festival.

A millennial American girl befriends a Lebanese housewife and disrupts her ordered life; one night they become accidental partners-in-crime.

Noor Fay Gharzeddine is a Lebanese-American filmmaker born and raised in New York City. Her films study unlikely relationships developed in strange environments. She is fascinated with blending hyper-realism and absurdity, tragedy and comedy. Noor has a BA in Film and Electronic Arts from Bard College, where she had the privilege of studying under influential filmmakers such as Kelly Reichardt, Ben Coonley and Peter Hutton. She is currently developing a scripted comedy and writing her next film.

The film stars the award-winning actress Marwa Khalil who is known for her work in Single, Married, Divorced and newcomer Tess Harrison. The cinematography was created by the talented Ziad Chahoud and the film’s original score was composed by Simon Taufique.

The film will screen at Brooklyn Film Festival on June 9th at 8pm and June 10th at 8:30pm, making this the festival closing night film. More festivals will be announced very soon.

Interview - Noor Gharzeddine

Interview:

To being with, tell us about your latest film ‘Are You Glad I’m Here’…

Are You Glad I’m Here tells the story of Kirsten, a 24-year-old American girl who’s teaching English in Beirut for the school year; she’s looking for life experience and adventure but she’s also not really take advantage of her surroundings. One day she meets Nadine, a Lebanese housewife, and befriends her and her nine-year-old son. The first half of the film is a study of this unlikely friendship, and we as the audience become increasingly involved in Nadine’s life. One night things take a dark turn and these women find themselves partners in crime and spend the second half of the film facing the consequences of their actions. It’s a story about friendship, family and happiness- explored through the perspectives of two women who come from different cultures and who are both in very different places in their lives.

How did you get involved with the film? Where did the idea come from?

This idea was developed by Samuel Anderson, our screenwriter, and I. Sam’s a writer and I’m a filmmaker and we met in college in 2011. In 2015 we decided we wanted to make a movie together, in Lebanon, where my family is from and where he had studied Arabic. From 2015-2016 Sam worked on the script while I started remotely assembling a team in Lebanon from NYC. In the summer of 2016 we flew to Lebanon and spent the next six months there; meeting cast and crew, and eventually shooting the film in the last 18 days of our stay.

Tell us about the cast, who is starring? How did you get them involved?

The film stars award winning Lebanese actress Marwa Khalil, who plays Nadine and Tess Harrison, who plays Kirsten. We held auditions in Lebanon for about a month, with the help of casting director Petra Serhal, and I got to meet so many amazing Lebanese actors. Marwa blew me away during her audition- she was totally off book, emotional, and had the fiery energy we envisioned for Nadine. Tess was the only non-Lebanese actress in the film; I had worked with her on a pervious project so I knew we’d work well together. Tess had never been to Beirut, so her real experience mirrored that of her characters and I think it was an interesting process for her as an actress. A lot of the miscommunications you see in the film between Nadine and Kirsten happened organically between the actresses, which added a nice layer of realism.

What are your influences as a filmmaker?

My primary concern always revolves around characters and relationships and the other “stuff” that happens I often think of as coincidence or things that “just so happen to happen.”  Although this is a film with crime, violence, adventure etc. I tend to think about it more as a story of friendship- about two women’s lives that happen to overlap during this small period of time and an exploration of what happens when they’re forced together.

I’ve always been a fan of Japanese cinema and its ability to create emotion in wide, still shots that might feel somewhat removed from the characters psyches. In AYGIH we don’t spend much time alone with any one character or learn too much of anyone’s backstory, so I tried to create intimacy through emotional compositions/ framing. The film is very colourful and a lot of that inspiration came from Pedro Almodovar’s Volver and Wes Anderson films. This helped us keep the mood playful, even in the darker moments. Bergman’s Persona is always an influence I keep close to heart when thinking about character development and relationships, as it carefully studies the relationship between two women in one space over a short period of time.

When and where can we expect to see ‘Are You Glad I’m Here’?

Are You Glad I’m Here started its festival tour in April and our next screenings are on June 9th and 10th at the Brooklyn Film Festival. More screening dates in the US will be announced very soon! You can follow us on social media or check out my website to stay updated!

What is the next step for you? Do you have any other films or projects in production?

I’m currently the producer on AYGIH and I’m developing two other projects; a scripted TV sitcom and a feature, which will hopefully turn into my next directing project. Sam is working on a novel he’s been writing for the past few years and he’s finishing up the first draft of his second screenplay; an action film that takes place in 1920s Florida.

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Interviewed By:

Adam Snowden
@FilmDebate
Company Founder & Managing Director

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