Farah Nabulsi interview: ‘The Present’ director
“I feel like I’ve been welcomed,” smiles Farah Nabulsi in her exclusive interview with Gold Derby, two days after winning a BAFTA Award for “The Present” (watch the video above). “I’m absolutely thrilled,” continues the producer and screenwriter about the recognition that her directorial debut has received. This includes a nomination for Best Live Action Short at the 2021 Oscars, which Nabulsi will be attending in person, having recently landed in Los Angeles for the ceremony.
Primarily in Arabic, the Palestinian film follows a man on his wedding anniversary in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. “The idea being everything that happens to him in this film, in this day, other than the checkpoint, could happen to anyone,” explains Nabulsi, who fashioned a plot that she describes as “so simple” in order to make it “as relatable” as possible. She continues, “The landscape is what’s absurd. The landscape is what adds drama to the story. The story itself — there’s no drama: Man goes, buys gift, comes back.”
“It evolves,” says Nabulsi about how the film was revised from pre-production through post-production. She notes that the outcome and tone of the original ending that she devised starkly contrasts the ultimate one, as well as that she left a comedic interlude in the middle of the film on the cutting-room floor. “It was very cute, but it was out of genre,” explains Nabulsi.
She continues, “I’ll let you into a secret we had. The first opening scene — before you see him on the cardboard — was actually he’s in (what you’ll discover is) a dream, so at first, he’s in the most beautiful olive field with olive trees and it’s a beautiful day and he’s happy and he’s touching nature and then he wakes up and then we’re there and it was beautiful, but did I need it? Did it really add to the film? All it did was add length and I guess in many ways part of the beauty of the film and that people are enjoying is it’s only 24 minutes and yet, it flies by and it’s compact, but the first cut was 33 minutes.”