Case Study: The Unseen Evolution Hussein Al Khayat's portrait of creative people reshaping the city of Heerlen.
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Case Study: The Unseen Evolution

Hussein Al Khayat's portrait of creative people reshaping the city of Heerlen.

Starting from a young age, Hussein Al Khayat has had a fascination for film: a place of imagination and wonder. The 28-year-old artist and filmmaker has been making shorts since 2015, showing a broad interest in genres. For his documentary project The Unseen Evolution, Al Khayat wanted to show the beauty that can be found in the city of Heerlen.

" I didn't really write a normal script but preferred to do the interviews first."

16 februari 2021

The beauty of Heerlen

"It started as an idea for Cultura Nova, to make an installation that shows the city of Heerlen in a positive creative light. This was back in 2019 when I was still in school. The idea started from the nostalgia factor of the place itself. When I was young, I used to go to the Royal Theater in Heerlen to see films and my fascination for films started here. This became the place for the installation itself. The idea was to use the main screen of the cinema as a metaphor."

"At first sight people have a negative image of Heerlen that it is a rather empty city with not a lot to do. But behind the scenes there is more going on. Creative people are rebuilding the city in a new positive light. This was the story me and my team of three co-students (Kamala Schuler, Eva Bos and Floris Brouwers) wanted to tell with the installation. Eventually we created a multimedia installation, consisting of four short films, a poem and photography. The four short films were about a painter (Dave de Leeuw), a young filmmaker (Martijn Martens), a dj (Melvin Hardin) and a dancer (Emiel Janssen). These parts were shown behind the big cinema screen. People literally needed to go behind the scenes to see these creative people talk about Heerlen. 

"In 2021 I decided to combine two of the films, the painter and the dancer, to make a short film. And here we are."

Painting and breakdance

"The filming took place in 2019. I didn't really write a normal script but preferred to do the interviews first, together with my team, so we could base the film upon that material. I did write the idea of what it should be like. For example, I didn't want any talking heads. I just wanted to show the people doing the thing they love, being narrated by the same people. So I would say this would be the script for the film itself. For the painter, I only wanted to show him drawing in his studio and show off his works. The dancer could perform in the city of Heerlen, in different locations."

"We did do quite a lot of improv when it came to filming the scenes. Everything went according to plan. There were no real problems during the filming. Through Marcel Hermans we got in touch with painter Dave de Leeuw,  because he was a former student of his. For the dancer, I contacted HFC, a studio in Heerlen focusing on breakdance. They gave me Emiel Janssen as a contact and a volunteer for the project. So in preparation we wrote questions for the interviews and after the interview the filming started. It approximately took five days of filming in total, including the filming of the city itself. I was the DOP and filmed everything myself, next to being the director."

"The rest of the crew for the filming of the painter, consisted of Eva Bos and Floris Brouwers. They helped with the production process and Eva did the sound for the interview. They were both co-students and Floris is a photographer. He also films and edits. Eva is a visual designer. The filming of the dancer was a one man crew, done by me."

Financing the film

"The edit was done primarily by me and Kamala Schuler, my co-student back in 2019. She is currently filming and editing different projects. For the part of Dave de Leeuw, the painter, me and her worked together on the editing. I did the edit for the dancer, Emiel Janssen, by myself. I also edited this newer version in 2021 by combining the two films into one. The editing process itself was done in revisions and took longer than the filming itself, as it always tends to take."

"I always have a hard time being a hundred percent happy with an edit. But eventually there is a tipping point, where everything clicks and the satisfaction is there. That's the moment when it becomes a final cut."

Tip for filmmakers: take the adventure

"When you have an idea for a film, try to write this idea down immediately. Every new idea can become something great in the form of a film, or any other medium. Working together in a team is also very important in realizing a film. Not having all the resources should not be a blockade but a challenge. Even with the lowest budget, or no budget at all, you can create a great film in my opinion. It's an adventure!

(c) All visual material is used with the filmmaker's permission.

Watch this short via Euregion Film Festival 2021.

March 1-7, online.

Tickets & more info.

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