New Film – ‘Nocturne In Black’
Nocturne In Black weaves art and war in a story that demands the deepest reserves of courage, passion and artistic appreciation. In a war-ravaged neighborhood somewhere in the Caliphate (it could be Aleppo or Homs or Ramadi), Karim, a young musician who struggles to rebuild his piano after it is destroyed by Islamic extremists, is on a quest for survival, cultural revival and freedom. This brilliant film, from director Jimmy Keyrouz (who recently cut his teeth at Columbia University’s graduate film school), is a geopolitically-charged epic about a courageous individual fighting against fundamentalism in his own community through civil disobedience and subtle subversion — refusing to allow terrorists to break his iron-clad creative spirit. Putting war under a microscope, this story is a heartfelt and humanizing take on one of the most egregious human-rights struggles/sectarian conflicts in the world. VIVISXN caught up with the masterminds behind the film, director Jimmy Keyrouz and composer Fatrin Krajka, and asked them about the storyline, character development, film location and more.
What’s the basic storyline of your new film Nocturne In Black?
The film tells the story of Karim, a disheartened young musician who struggles to rebuild his piano that was destroyed by zealous Takfiri militants. Even though it takes place in a world that seems hopeless, the story is fundamentally about hope, freedom, existential upheaval and personal survival.
What inspired you to take up this subject?
A friend emailed me an article with the title “In Syria’s starving Yarmuk camp, a young pianist conjures hope.” So I reached out and got to know this pianist’s story on a deeper level. His name is Aeham Ahmad (from Syria), and he played the piano to escape the absurdities and atrocities of war. I got really inspired and praised him for pursuing his art under near impossible circumstances; for allowing those around him to experience the beauty of music and recognize that life still had meaning. When I told him about my idea for a film project, he was really excited. It was at that moment that I began to write a screenplay inspired by Aeham‘s experience. The story is about a musician who struggles to rebuild himself and human values in the face of tremendous adversity.
Did you ever meet Aeham? what are the differences between Karim (the main character) and Aeham?
Karim is a fictional character and quite different from Aeham. In the story, Karim wants to get rid of his busted piano (destroyed by terrorists) but a young boy (Ziad), eager to learn to play, urges Karim to rebuild it. However, I did get inspired by the fact that Aeham was really playing music in his war-torn neighborhood. I couldn’t go to Syria to meet Aeham, obviously, but we spoke on the phone and he told me about the conflict, his daily struggles, and the dangers and desperation he faced on a daily basis.
Is it true that the film was shot in Lebanon? Can you talk about that?
Yeah, we shot it in Lebanon because the backdrop/cultural milieu was more conducive to the film’s look and feel; we wanted to capture a more realistic environment and Lebanon was good for that. I also grew up there (I did my undergraduate studies in film in Beirut) so I was really familiar with the setup.
Who were the actors and where are they from?
The actors are all Lebanese. Terek Yaacoub (Karim) and Julian Farhat (the terrorist leader) are both professional actors. Karim Zein (Ziad) is a young boy with a promising acting career ahead of him. Rachid Slalom (Abou Moussa) acts for fun in his spare time.
You’ve just won the Gold for the Student Academy Award (Congrats!). Are you excited? What’s next?
I’m really grateful for all the people who supported me along the way and am eager to start working on my next project. Yes, it is very exciting! I’m working on developing a TV show that takes up topics around terrorism, corruption and the global refugee crisis. Also I’m exploring turning Nocturne in Black into a feature film. Fingers crossed.
What message do you hope to convey to anyone who sees Nocturne In Black?
Our message is meant to signal hope and transcendence through the arts. In a topsy-turvy world plagued with religious extremism, sectarian strife and myriad other problems, our hope is that art — cinema, music, etc. — can fight the scourge of fanaticism.