Hamad Al-Tourah is a Kuwaiti writer and filmmaker. In 2008, Hamad obtained a dual degree in Cinema Studies and Journalism, with special emphasis on the Middle East in print and film, from New York University. After a year working in post-production and distribution for documentaries, he left for Singapore to complete a three-year master’s program in Film and Television at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts Asia. During that time, he had his short film, Alice In The Meantime, screen at the Palm Springs International Short Film Festival, was named a Kuwaiti Merit Scholar, and was announced as one of four filmmakers to receive a production grant from the Doha Film Institute for his short film, Playtime, which is currently in production in Kuwait ahead of a December 2012 release. So let’s get up close and personal with the man behind the filmmaker…
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
On a farm in the Adirondacks baking pies, brewing coffee, and being able to leave only when I have a project to film or if I needed a little city time. There’s a spot in the Adirondacks that has a “Dark Sky Index” of 6 to 7.1. This means that you can see everything in the sky – the Milky Way, meteors, satellites passing by… I want to look forward to having that view at the end of every day.
What is your greatest fear?
Total dependence. I want to be able to be tossed out anywhere in the world and be able to navigate it on my own without having to ask for favors from anyone, even those closest to me. It kills me to think that I’m living on someone else’s dime or that I need someone to get me from point A to point B. I hate having to ask for help or favors.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
I forget things very easily. It’s especially painful because I’m an extremely nostalgic person. I constantly beat myself up for forgetting details of things past. It makes it hard to be productive, present and focused. I often blank out on what’s just happened or been told to me because I’ll be wandering around in my own head.
For me, it’s not “we always want what we don’t have”, but “we always want what we had”.
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Which living person do you most admire?
I’m going to go with a public person since I can’t choose just one between all the people I admire who are close to me.
Mia Farrow. I admire how unafraid she is to consistently play such vulnerable characters. She is almost always pigeonholed in film as this needy and feeble housewife, but she manages to balance it somehow with strength and honesty. More recently she’s headed some great humanitarian efforts in Africa without asking for the spotlight in return. I’m completely enamored with her on-screen and public persona. I could watch every film she’s in back-to-back and always find something new to connect to in each one.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Coffee. I will skip a meal if it means that I can use that money on anything coffee related – brewing mechanisms and coffee paraphernalia, bags of beans, or a slew of drinks from a favorite coffee shop. I can drink a cup and pass out ten minutes later. I worked at a coffee shop for five years, but would often end my shift and stop by another coffee shop to spend my tips there. It wasn’t just the coffee, but the variety of experiences and interactions that revolved around it. I was and am an addict in every sense of the word.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
When were you happiest?
I know I should probably answer now or every morning I wake up alive and healthy, but that’s just not true for me. If it is, I’m not totally aware of it.
Like I said, I’m cripplingly nostalgic. Definitely my first two years in college in New York. I had worked so hard for so many years to get the scholarship I needed to go out there, live on my own, and quickly get swallowed up in a world I never imagined I’d be a part of. I was just getting into writing non-fiction and had fun meeting new people and writing about their experiences. There was always a new moment to be had with a new person. The best feeling in the world was stepping out my door by myself late at night and just walking for hours. The further I got from home, the more exciting the walk would become. I would get home and write about all that I had come across.
Which talent would you most like to have?
A musical one, more likely playing an instrument than singing. I used to play saxophone, but quit even though our high school principal warned me that I’d regret it. I think practicing music at a young age and all the way through adulthood strengthens the mind. Now, that time has passed and it feels like I’ve lost that capacity for good. Maybe I’m being too dramatic, but it’s definitely more difficult to pick up that kind of talent later in life. Being a good musician is one of the very few things that is earned over years, if not decades of serious commitment. I envy musicians more than anyone else for sticking to it.
What would you consider your greatest achievement?
Relocating to Singapore for three years. Southeast Asia was the place I’d least expect to end up. After being there for a year, I told myself I wouldn’t go back. The climate was exhausting and I had to find a new way to communicate with those around me. I felt like I was compromising myself and the fact that I couldn’t adjust made me question my own resilience. I managed to get through it all and accepted that once I made the decision to go that I had to stick with it all the way through. I proved to myself that I can commit.
Where would you most like to live?
See “What is your idea of perfect happiness?”
For more information on Hamad Al-Tourah and his current film project visit: www.indiegogo.com/playtimemovie.