Meet The Oman-Based Team That Just Won The Nikon Film Festival

05 Dec 2019
POSTED BY Alvin Thomas

A hero could be hiding in plain sight, illustrates Oman-based filmmaker Midhun Mukund and his team, as they highlight the importance of protecting the environment in an award-winning silent short film worth a million words. Y’s Alvin Thomas sits down with the crew to learn more about their film with a message.

The difference between an average film and an award-winning one often lies in its execution.

From a mere script on a piece of paper to a complete film ready for public viewing, the life of a director and of those behind the scenes of a production team goes beyond the scope of a 9-to-5 job – requiring immense patience in pursuit of creativity.

Midhun Mukund (pictured right) at work

Maybe that’s what distinguishes a good team from a great one – such as the one led by film director, Midhun Mukund, 28, that has just snagged the first-place spot at the highly-coveted Nikon Middle East Film Festival.

Armed with a concept in line with current events – specifically those of climate change and environmental care – Midhun and his team sought to give the Sultanate’s scarcely recognised heroes (such as the cleaners who toil away laboriously for hours on end) a hero’s cape…quite literally!

Grim in tone from its start, with dark noir-inspired lighting to match the message, Midhun begins his short film, titled ‘Hero’, by taking a dig at the ‘like-share-subscribe’ culture brought about by social media, and proceeds to highlight the efforts of a cleaner – who takes the role of ‘Hero’ in this story.

The three-minute-long silent film may lack dialogue, but there’s a level of sophistication that it brings about; a simple but involving sound score provided by Japanese composer Masaki Uchida gives an uplifting sensation as the film progresses.

“It’s a dream production,” says an ecstatic Midhun Mukund. “All of this was a part of an elaborate process – from submitting my first show-reel earlier this year to Nikon, to taking home the award in the Pro’s category.”

Humble and soft-spoken, there’s no hint of sway in our interview – the self-taught director and videographer remains on-point, giving us the recipe to the team’s success.

Talking about the video that got him selected into the final five from over 400 participants from ten countries, he says: “The first show-reel I submitted was a video I made in Samail of the Eid Habta (Eid market), and it was a random video I had shot while soaking in the ambience there.

“It was unexpected – but I was extremely honoured to be a part of the finalists in the competition.”

Realising his talent, Nikon handed him their latest Z6 mirrorless camera and a lens, to shoot his final video for the contest.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Though, that’s not to undermine the long, perilous hours put in for the production and post-production of the video. And with Vivi Charly, a pioneer in the Malayalam movie industry, added to the mix as Creative Director, the winning formula quickly begins to take shape.

A nine-strong team – comprised of both experienced and newbie members – is put together.

Assistant Director Laxmi Hari, 19, for whom this is her first short film of such stature, is quick to point out: “One of the greatest things we achieved was working with people who haven’t worked together before.

“For example, I met everyone on the set. But, we all had a purpose and the mission was clear to us – and that’s why we all blended. We had a connection that was forged by the film,” she adds.

Having shot scenes over three weeks in locations such as Al Amerat, Darsait, Yiti, and Azaiba as early as the wee hours of the morning, Midhun and his crew rake in an Omani atmosphere that’s hard to rival – all while giving the Hero, played by Shaneeb Mohammed, his importance.

But all did not go as planned at first. As Midhun tells us, “I had to change the script a few times. We began by trying to mix a few stories before finally settling in to show how there are many heroes within the society who we need to begin talking about.

“Our short film may only show one – but our idea is to use that one person to create a wider awareness on the topic. And, I believe we were able to achieve that.”

Countless revisions and a multitude of feedback later from professionals in the industry, Midhun submits his video to the Nikon panel, which includes famous names such as Mustafa Abbas (writer and award-winning film director), William Mullally (film critic), Mini Sharma (film producer), Razan Takash (director and film professor), and Ankit Ojha (film critic).

Determined to hand-pick films on the basis of their technical and artistic merit and purpose, the Nikon Film Festival adopted sub-themes such as showcasing kindness in the digital age, taking care of the environment, and youth empowerment this year.

Whether they instigated a movement or not, the ‘Hero’ crew has begun influencing others through their own lives. Midhun says: “I like making films with a message. One thing about this film was that we became very conscious about waste management and protecting our environment while shooting.

“We also began noticing things that we never did before. Things like people leaving behind plastic trash out in the open. Today, we can proudly say that most of us will take the effort to echo the theme of our short film.

“That’s an impact we were able to create. And that’s the power of film.”

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