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ANOUAR H. SMAINE:"TAKE A GOOD LOOK AT VOICELESS PEOPLE, THEY ARE NOT INVISIBLE, THEY ARE REAL AND EXIST"

ANOUAR H. SMAINE

Award Winning American Filmmaker of Algerian descent

Writer, Director, Producer, Actor

Lives and works in Los Angeles, California.

Director: "Modern Times" (2009), "Axis of Evil" (2010),  "Street Law" (2010), "Breaking Free" (2010), "My Love" (2010), "Sharia" (2015), and the upcoming "Battle Fields" (2017).

Producer: "Ménages" Short, "Ménages" Feature, "Honor among thieves", "Screw it", "Axis of Evil", "Sharia", "Battle Fields."

 

Dipse: Anouar, you have just completed your new film "Battle Fields". Congratulations! When will audience have a chance to see it first?

Anouar H. Smaine: Thank you. We expect the film to be available for US and International film festival audiences around Spring 2018. I can be more precise about exact dates as we move closer to such period.

Dipse: "Battle Fields" is such a beautiful film with a very strong social message. Which festivals are you planning to submit it to?

Anouar H. Smaine:  There are so many great film festivals within the United States but also around the world. We are submitting “Battle fields” to as many film festivals as possible. The goal here isn’t so much to get into specific ones, but rather reaching as wide an audience as possible because of the subject matter of the film itself. Our film’s story raises awareness about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in Veterans as well as in Civilians; those who find themselves caught in conflicts they didn’t choose to be part of, people who have no say in politics and whose lives have been completely wiped out by wars and conflicts, which they still don’t fathom the reasons or the meaning thereof. So getting into many film festivals will facilitate the  purpose of raising awareness about the devastating effects of War on real people; Veterans and their families who have paid and continue to pay a heavy price for political blunders, and civilian populations of countries that became battle fields and battle grounds, leading great numbers of them to become refugees within their own country or in different parts of the world. Those of us who live in the west are so fortunate to have peace, access to drinking water, healthcare, and the protection of the law. There is almost none of that in war torn countries, forcing people to either stay and die (in many cases), or leave to seek refuge in countries that do not want them. Not a day goes by when I don’t see a Veteran standing on the side of a road or by the entrance of a freeway holding a sign that reads "Veteran – hungry" These are people who had lives before the war, families that cared about them, and whom today find themselves in such horrible situation. It is the same when it comes to people who flee their countries because of war. It is really ironic that it is usually the most peaceful people that end up becoming refugees, and therefore, homeless in a certain way. It is something that does not make sense to me and the very reason why I wrote this story and made it into a film. The "Raison d’etre" of this film is to put all these voiceless people on the big screen and tell the world: "Take a good look at them, they too have/had families, they too have/had hopes and aspirations, they too feel/felt joy and pain, they too have/had lives… They are not invisible, they are real and they exist." 

Dipse: There are two leads in "Battle Fields"; You yourself portrayed Rasheed, a refugee from Iraq, and Actor, Sean Stone, portrayed Bobby O’Malley, a US veteran of Iraq who suffers from PTSD. How was it working with Sean Stone on this film?

Anouar H. Smaine: Sean is one of the best Actors I’ve had the privilege to collaborate and work with during my filmmaker’s career. We had a nice dynamic throughout the entire process of  bringing "Battle Fields" to life starting with our multiple read-throughs and rehearsals, then kicking off production and actually making the film. Sean’s work ethic, patience, and commitment to this film was impeccable and I’m deeply grateful to him on so many levels. A great actor knows how to listen to what’s expected of him/her, and Sean demonstrated such ability from the get go. While he was very attentive to my multiple requests and directing choices, he still provided valuable input and suggestions as to how to best portray Bobby (Our Veteran) and show his vulnerabilities, his inner struggles, and his humanity. I’m fortunate to have worked with Sean on this film and I’m honored today to call him a friend.

Dipse: In the film, both characters are from different cultures and faiths, they seem very different at first, but that changes as the story moves forward. What inspired you to write such touching story?

Anouar H. Smaine: The main idea behind the story of the film is to show that regardless of faith, culture, or traditions, people are first and foremost bound by their humanity. We can all speak different languages, hold different beliefs, have different cultures and traditions, but all of us still experience joy and sorrow the same way, we all need oxygen and water to live, we all cherish our families and love our children or significant others the same way. Conflict, war, terrorism and extremism are these horrific things that all of us unfortunately live with from birth to death, directly or indirectly as actors or witnesses who have, consciously or unconsciously, grown to accept as facts of life. That, in my humble opinion, is a very sad thing for our world, for our societies, our communities, our families, and our children. So to answer your question, the inspiration behind writing this story and making it into a film is to tell people "Look, that person you’re afraid of, is your fellow human being, they may not speak your language or hold the same beliefs as you, but they love, laugh, cry, and feel happiness and sorrow the exact same way as you do. You don’t have to love them or hate them, just live your life, and let them live theirs in peace.This goes for anyone in any part of the world."

Dipse: How many US veterans have you met before working on "Battle Fields" and how big was their impact on you as a writer and filmmaker?

Anouar H. Smaine: I have known a number of veterans over the years, many who suffer from PTSD. Richard the homeless from New York (Vietnam), John the deli cook back in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Rasheed T. of Las Vegas, NV (Korean War), Jake Clark, (Cold War era, multiple Peacekeeping tours in the former Yugoslavia) to name a few. The impact everyone of these great human beings have had on me is huge: their lives are completely altered, some were able to get back into society, re-integrate the work force, create non-profits like Save A Warrior founded by my friend Jake Clark and which works with veterans with PTSD (Jake helped tremendously in bringing authenticity and honesty to the character of "Bobby;" the Veteran in the film), others have lost their families and live on the street. Yes, they each have been to different wars, but was it their decision to go there? Or did they go on behalf of a nation and through the decision of powerful people who have never set foot on a battle field for the most part? My point is; the honorable people who serve in the armed forces are so dedicated and selfless, the fate of the country falls in their hands when it comes to defense, just like their own fate falls in the hands of the country’s decision makers: let us not take their sacrifice and that of their families lightly. Let us honor them and celebrate them by not putting them in harm’s way except when it is absolutely necessary as they too have lives to live and families to take care of.

Dipse: You wrote the script, directed the movie and also played a leading role. How difficult was it to be in the frame and control the filming behind the camera as well?

Anouar H. Smaine: It’s always challenging to wear different hats during the process of making a film, but that is specifically the challenge that every independent filmmaker has to take and hopefully overcome. In my case, I’ve grown more comfortable with such practice as I usually work with incredibly talented, dedicated, and committed professionals whom I both trust and know the skills thereof. Jonathan Angelier, Yan Rymsha, Dan Mackler, Emily Debinie, Sean Stone, Jessica Duval, Jennifer Angelier, Sahar El-Ghali, Stephanie Barber, Aashish Mayur Shah, Mohamed Hadj Smaine are all people who contributed greatly to the making of this film and I am deeply grateful to them and to many others, the list is very long.

Dipse: Tell us about your other upcoming films.

Anouar H. Smaine: I’m currently developing a few scripts, one for 2018 and the other (A much more complex story) for 2019. I can’t say much about the stories themselves, but I can tell you that both will be stories centered around the universal human condition in this era of extremes, of doubts, and of hope. Thank you.

 

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