The life of Emirati filmmaker Mustafa Abbas is defined by an unbridled passion for movies, where the lines between work and play are somewhat nonexistent. If he’s not making movies, he’s watching them. The 27 year old strives to attain originality in its purest form, where his short film, 100 Miles, won the Best Non Documentary Film Award at the 2007 Emirates Film Competition when he was only 23 years old. That same year, 100 Miles made the official selection at the Dubai International Film Festival, marking Abbas’s ascent as a filmmaker. In this role, Abbas is also the writer, director, and cinematographer, crafting his vision into life.
Considered as his seventh film, 100 Miles is about a young schizophrenic who put a hit on an old rival for abusing a girl, only later to discover that he is innocent. Abbas was thus deemed one of the dark horses of the Arab film industry, sourcing human behavior as his main inspiration for his crime-based, modern-noir style; films that are dominated by gritty dialogue enticing shadowy lighting. In 2009, Abbas added yet another feather to his silver screen cap, when his film, Rain, screened at the year’s Gulf Film Festival. Since then, Abbas has written several full length screen plays, some of which are currently under development.
Abbas had a clear-cut vision of his life in cinema; he began playing with a video camera at the tender age of 12. By the time he had turned 17, Abbas had already written, and shot, several home videos using the support of his friends as his star-studded cast. This fascination with the psychological journeys of the average human soul is a central part, and even a guiding light, of Abbas’s career path. Upon the success of 100 Miles, he reached international status when his film, The Alley, screened at none-other-than the prestigious Cannes Film Festival in 2007, where his crime-based approach appealed to fans and critics, alike. On creating gripping stories that keep the viewer captivated by the raw portrayal of human character, Abbas doesn’t believe that there is a fixed formula to achieving success or making a film. Instead, he finds that the most vital part of a movie is creating a fascinating middle section, in order to sustain the interest of the viewer.
One would imaging that it is only natural for Abbas to flourish with the budding Emirati filmmaking scene, yet his ability to distinguish his work with the field of crime thrillers definitely separates him from the rest. Through his work, Abbas delves deep into the human soul, exploring the nature of characters and their ability to change from good to evil depending on the circumstances they are presented with. In a recent interview with Gulf News, he states, “I have realized anyone is capable of doing anything. It all depends on the situation.” Choosing to break the mould, and deviate from the expected, he bases great emphasis on dialogues, and even the lack thereof, as silence plays an influential factor to exemplify the suspense in a given scene, or enhance the characters with a truly humane edge. Film critics may look for stunning graphics and 3D effects for that edge, yet Abbas sees the edge in the humanity and natural portrayal of the journey of the human soul.
Critics even compare Abbas’s films to American action films, as he has so far produced movies in the English language. Challenging himself even further, Abbas has recently written an Arabic story about street gangs, a resounding phenomenon in the Middle East. With both local and international screenings to add to his accolades of success, Abbas is soon due to release his next highly anticipated feature film, Criminal, at the 2012 Gulf Film Festival, starting from the 10th of April, until the 16th.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Health and peace of mind, respectively. Living the way you want, and doing the things you like from small to big..
What is your greatest fear?
I think the greatest fear of any human being is the fear of not being loved.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Which living person do you most admire?
Clichéd but the truth: My parents.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
When were you happiest?
Which talent would you most like to have?
Probably drawing or singing.
What would you consider your greatest achievement?
I’ll get back to you on that one in a few years.
Where would you most like to live?
I’m living here already.
For more information about Mustafa Abbas, please visit mustafaabbas.com.