Q&A

May Ziadé

What’s your background?

My academic background is in the social sciences, I studied International Politics and Social and Cultural Anthropology in London. My area of interest used to lie mostly within alternative citizen conceptions of temporality and space and my first jobs were research positions in that area. In my mid-twenties, my childhood’s fanatic devotion to watching as many bootleg DVDs as humanly possible caught up with me and I decided to find a job in film production so I could feel closer to a world that I thought I wanted to be a part of. I worked in production teams in various capacities - currently I still pay my bills by working as a Post Production Coordinator in the UK. My artistic journey only started then - I started writing for myself and for other people, and slowly learned how to find my own voice and make my own films. I am very much still on that journey.

What influences you artistically?

My peers. Recently I’ve been watching a lot of short films and am blown away by the creativity and political fierceness of the filmmakers who surround me - as well as the curatorial efforts that emanate from my wider film community. A few years ago I was struck by a dear friend, the artist Nashwa Zaman, who said: “we don’t watch each-other’s work enough” - she was referring specifically to filmmakers of the South-Asian Diaspora but I think this may unfortunately apply to a lot of us emerging filmmakers. Now I try, as much as I can, to play my part in a global effort to engage with artists and filmmakers outside of the white cis-het cannon.

More generally, I am inspired by the performing arts and the sensibilities that come to life on a stage. I’d like to figure out ways in which I could somehow encapsulate the feelings that arise within me when I’m watching a live performance so I can inject that into my films. Will I ever be able to?

In cinema I love worlds that weave naturalism and theatrical underpinnings, like those brought to the screens by Elia Suleiman & Miranda July. Finding the “right” (and by right I truly just mean my own) balance between artifice and naturalism is an active question that occupies my artistic process. For every project this balance varies, & I make decisions collaboratively, by trusting the instinct that my collaborators and I build together during our research process. I encourage myself and our crew to question the extent through which artifice can be the key to revealing some of humanity’s hidden truths - and to evaluate the tensions that arise when non-fiction & fiction cohabitate on the screen.

How do you start a new work?

Starting new work is very easy for me, finishing work is what I struggle with most. When I get a new idea, it usually becomes an obsessive thought that flares up on all of my walks, on my commutes, in my dreams… I camouflage these ideas in everyday conversations, as a means to test the bounds and fringes of their thematic possibilities and potentialities…
For Neo Nahda I went through a really long research process, similar to the one taken by the main character. After a lot of back-and-forth with Joelle Aoun, the production designer, the film’s world was conceptualized and the journey to adapting my screenplay to the screen felt more than possible.

What are you working on right now?

A lot of things, and also nothing very concrete at this time as the balance between the Neo Nahda release and my day job is already difficult to maintain. But, when I have capacity, I work on the screenplay to a “conventional” short dark comedy that pits two women in a relationship who come from different cultures and have different understandings of boundaries against each-other. It all takes place in the French countryside in the midst of a pollen storm. I am also slowly researching two moving image-leaning projects, one is a short opera about a British folk tale and the other is about sperm & sperm donors. I am also writing a prose project called “mythologies of a lesbian diagnosis” that reads like a “book of mythology” on how my mother and her psychoanalyst diagnosed me as a lesbian when I was a toddler. It will explore my mother’s relationship with psychoanalysis & how it became a life-saving dogma for her as well as the bane of my (lesbian) existence.