“Never give up making films, however hard it may be!”

Meet Wassim Sookia, whose sensitive and touching film Keeper shared the first prize with Jakob Beckman’s A Night to Remember at the World of Shorts film contest in April.

·    Wassim

I am from Mauritius and I’m 37 years old. I’ve been making short films since 1995. Those days, I used two videos to edit the tapes for one master copy! I studied electronics to master cameras and later shifted to literature to improve my storytelling and analytic skills. Inspired by metaphysical poets and indie music, I decided to make films when I discovered the works of Kieślowski, Jarmusch, Kaurismäki, Hal Hartley and Kiarostami among others. I work for an advertising agency as a senior copywriter, so I spend my days thinking of ideas for commercials. It has always helped me as I am able to write my own dialogue very quickly and think of unique situations.

·    Film in Mauritius

There are quite a few filmmakers here and their number is constantly increasing. There is the Mauritius Film Development Corporation that has been organising short film competitions, and Ile Courts, a new short film festival helping newcomers to give filmmaking a try. But the National Television does not support short films at all, and there is no real help to encourage us to carry on making films. It was in 2002, after my short Tanga that I realised that Mauritian cinema was not at all visible throughout the world. Since then, I have set myself a goal: to show  Mauritius to the world  through my films. My 4 last films have been bought by TV5 Monde.

·   Social responsibility

I believe in making films that can hold people’s attention even just for a while and make them think. I don’t make films to show the beaches of Mauritius. I show real people who have real stories to tell. And I try to tell stories that are universal. I don’t really strive to change the world but I try to bring a little bit of optimism to people’s lives, however small it may be.

·    Working with amateur actors and kids

I prefer using amateurs as I find it easier to shape them to my story. I try to play with them in a way to get them to side with the characters of my film. Of course, directing children is very difficult but I’ve always liked the challenge. I like to use amateurs as their innocence is always true.

·    Future plans

I try to make a short film every year but of course I want to make a feature. I got close a few years ago when Sundance Film Festival contacted me for one of their labs and asked me to send a script. I wrote it in 10 days. They said they really enjoyed it, and I was close to be among the 3 winners out of some 155 candidates. So, I have a feature script ready and I’m waiting to get the funds to shoot it.

·    Short film

Short film is a nice way to allow  me to make a film every year as it involves less shooting time. I love the idea of getting lots of information in a very short  time. Getting an idea across with a single image is what I really enjoy in filmmaking. I’m really longing to direct my feature film and my great dream is to send my first feature to the Camera d’Or at Cannes one day.

·    The golden rule of filmmaking

My advice to emerging filmmakers is to observe people and reflect on their life and inner feelings. And to never give up making films, however hard it may be. Being with people, listening to them, sharing their sorrows and happiness help a lot to understand people and to eventually create the characters of my films.

·    The short film scene in Cannes

It is a great place to be and share ideas. It is also a great place to have films seen. I was there in 2008 and enjoyed the dynamism and movement around short films. Festivals like this help us understand the importance of short films. I didn’t really fancy the red carpet and all that stuff as to me it is really far from the whole filmmaking reality. At least, from what I know here in Mauritius.

interview by Zsuzsanna Deák