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Makr – A Muslim Ghost Story

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It doesn’t matter where you’re from, what language you speak, or what denomination/sect you subscribe to, if you’re a Muslim you’ve probably heard a spooky story about djinns, genies and ghostly going ons! Ibraheem Ali reviews Makr, an intriguing story that kept him awake all night.

For anyone not familiar with djinns they are entities that cannot be perceived by the human eye. A major tenet of Islamic faith is the belief in Al Ghayb or the unseen, that which is immaterial, escapes our immediate senses and can’t be fully comprehended. Djinns fall within the parameters of Al Ghayb. They are taken seriously by many Muslims around the world rather than being considered mere superstitions. However, that doesn’t stop people from manipulating or exploiting this belief and unfortunately, such people aren’t a rarity. 

That is the basis of Makr, a new short film streaming now at Alchemiya.  Makr  loosely translates as ‘deception’ and it tells the story of a con-artist who lost his faith in God after a tragedy many years before but now works as an exorcist. His supposed spiritual disillusionment is challenged during what appears to be a routine house-call but nothing is what it seems and there are allusions to dark and nefarious forces layered throughout the film.

Makr could best be described as high concept horror, a genre which may not come to mind when thinking of Islamically themed fiction, but yet fits the subject matter so well. The film manages to turn the most mundane sounds and features of a household into an unsettling and claustrophobic trap of uncertainty. The exorcist’s fraud is exposed and the empty horror of the consequences are a brilliant piece of cinematic, visual trickery.. 

We got in touch with the film’s director Hana Kazim to find out more about Makr, and more generally what filmmaking is like in the Arabian Gulf. 

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What’s your story? How did you get into filmmaking?

I like to say that it was kind of fate. When deciding what minor I wanted to pursue, I was conflicted between Film and Product Design. Both were intended to be just hobbies, as I was working towards Marketing at the time. I remember praying on it, and the scales tipped toward film. After my second film class, where they screened The Godfather, I was hooked. I knew it was all I wanted to do. Cut to four years later and none other than Francis Ford Coppola shows up to my graduation.

Are there any directors/ auteurs who you’d say influence your work?

Yes, I’m often very inspired by the work of other filmmakers, and just to name a few: Aronofsky, Aster, Scorsese, Kim Jee-Woon, Bong Joon Ho, Speilberg.

Why Horror? Would you consider yourself a fan of the genre or is it one you’re just experimenting with?

I’ve been a fan of the horror genre for as long as I can remember. This genre is great to work in as a filmmaker, as it gives you the opportunity to really exercise your creative skills. 

Tell us a little bit about Makr. Is there a story behind the film?

The thought process actually came from the rise of extremism in the region. A lot of false ideology was being practiced and preached. So much so it made me think where the compass of evil truly lies, is it the guilt-ridden wrongdoer, or the self-interested preacher.

From script to final cut, what was the production process like; how long did it take, were there any particular hurdles along the way?

We had 3 days and 15 pages to cover, it was definitely a race against time. Though filmmaking often is. I was blessed to be working with an amazing team, all of whom contributed to bringing this film to life.

Speaking from the South Asian Muslim context, you hear a lot of stories about spiritual abuse, fake exorcists, and the like, is this a common occurrence in the Gulf as well? 

It’s not as common in the gulf, however it does happen. 

What lessons do you hope people will take away from Makr? 

I hope that they learn to question what they are told and to never blindly follow, especially when it comes to faith and personal philosophy. 

Do you think there’s a future for genre films with Islamic themes/motifs? 

Yes, I do. I believe that because religion is so firmly attached to this region’s culture, it needs to be addressed in some way when telling stories here. I mean, it’s very much a part of our daily life.

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