Five minutes with: Hafsah Naib

Filmmaker, artist and founder of Working Class Films, Hafsah Naib shares why science fiction and experimental film appeal so much to her

What are you working on right now?  

Everything, all of the time! I’ve just got a residency/commission with Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool, and I’m writing a short film script which is a kind of sci-fi West Side Story meets 1984 set in the terraced streets of West Yorkshire. I’m also planning a new website for my artist project Working Class Films, which aims to create an archive of childhood through films created by school pupils and young people.

What/who originally turned you onto film?

While I was at art school, I wrote a short film script for a BBC writing competition and it got selected as one of six winners. Fifteen pages, written in just over two days and I was just as surprised as everyone else.

What’s your connection to the British Council?

I recently travelled to Nepal and delivered some film training and mentoring to a group of teachers, creative professionals and young people aged 12-16, as part of British Council’s Camera Chica project [called Camara Sika in Nepal. It was my first experience of working with British Council Film and it was an amazing opportunity to promote filmmaking through creative and inclusive education, visual learning and cultural exchange! These are the things that can have real impact on the lives of young people, their families, and society at both home and abroad.

What was your first job in the film industry?

Co-director on a short I wrote. It was an incredible experience, like all first experiences.

If I knew then what I know now…(a key piece of advice you’d give to someone starting off in filmmaking)

These are going to be the best days of your life. Start now with what and who is around you, and always keep yourself and your team focused on the work. The work needs YOU and don’t let anyone convince you otherwise!

What is your favourite British film? Why?

One of my favourites is Ratcatcher by Lynne Ramsay. It’s such a tender film. If Caravaggio made films this would be his self-portrait as a young boy. The contrast and depth in the cinematography as well as the themes Ramsay seamlessly conjures into a swirling narrative are just beautiful. I have to also mention The Smallest Show on Earth for a completely different set of reasons.

One of my favourite films is Ratcatcher by Lynne Ramsay.... If Caravaggio made films this would be his self-portrait as a young boy.

If you could have been involved with any film ever made, which one would it be? Why?

Lost in Translation by Sophia Coppola, to be in Japan with Bill Murray. It’s just one of those films where art and life are kind of dancing with each other.

What’s the first film you remember seeing?

My film memories are rich with different kinds of cinema, genre and languages, but the first film I have a clear memory of, as a filmic piece of work in its entirety, is Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs. I was 15 when I saw Reservoir Dogs, and when the film finished I felt I like was still in some sort of movement. I had a very ‘haptic’ experience, I think. I remember feeling an absence of anything familiar, which is why science fiction and experimental film appeal so much.

What’s your favourite line or scene from a film? Why?

The dancing scene in Goddard’s Bande a Part comes to mind, with characters Odile, Franz and Arthur. It’s just my kind of thing. And the burning hut shot/scene in Tarkovsky’s Mirror is beyond words.

Who’s your favourite screen hero and/or villain? Why?

Oh it has to be Ripley from the Alien movies. I think that’s what a woman has to do sometimes: fight against all odds. I generally like my villains to have redemptive qualities, but Hal9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey was savage as was the demon in The Exorcist.

Who would play you in the film about your life? Why?

I’d like a sunflower to play me in the film about my life. It would have to be five foot tall with a mixed Yorkshire-Lancashire accent.

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