Instead of actually living and experiencing things, we have become obsessed with superficial moments that can be shared on social media. We have forgotten about adventures that we could have if we just took the time to get to know people.
This documentary short film is about what happens if we do.
The Encounter is a documentary project shot on analog 35mm. Envisioned by myself and Director of Photography Josua Stäbler together with Simon Fessler from the Hamburg based film production Simon & Paul. We set out to free ourselves from mood boards that were plucked from other peoples work to make a film that is completely driven by its story and the images that derive during the pursuit of it.
All I had to go off of was a night-long conversation with a Pakistani worker named Ali on a trip to Oman. The exchange left me captivated by the mans life and character. His openness and warmth instilling the wish to somehow translate the way I felt that night onto the screen.
“I LOVE HER LOVE”
We decided to go for a semi-documentary approach. But leaving the direction and intimacy of the protagonists exchange up to the two themselves.
In the magic only a night-time conversation by the fire can bring, a story emerges that comes from deep within the islamic tradition but is so familiar in its affect, that it resonates through ones heritage. Listening through headphones behind a desert tent so as not to disturb the pair, we hear Ali as he tells Alice about his life, his love and his family. The decision is made to build the film around that story.
The story of a woman he once loved but had to let go because his traditional parents did not approve of the match. The crux of his story comes from his outlook on his situation though.
It is his defiance to not get taken down by his circumstances so he can approach others openly that distinguishes him. Ultimately it is his insistence on the beauty of life.
ALI AND ALICE
To give Ali’s story a listener and the film its second face Josua and me contacted Alice Aedy. A photo journalist in her own right, the British native was purposely chosen for her experience of raw storytelling. Though in stark contrast to Ali visually and culturally she offers the right amount of mindfulness to the story to make Alis experience resonate with everyone watching the duo interact.
Together they form a pair so unlikely that their interaction gives the film a tension that feels exciting.
GOING ANALOG – LIMITING YOURSELF TO FOCUS ON THE ESSENTIAL
With the advantages of digital ways to record comes the tendency to film an excess of material to have it „just in case“.
In order to purposely limit himself Josua (the Director Of Photography) decided to go analog and brought 16 rolls of 35mm film which equals just 100 minutes of raw-footage. Requiring us to depend on each other unconditionally and demanding the images that are captured to be shot with exact concentration for there are little prospects to fix things once they have been recorded.
But limitations are not solely compromises. They bring opportunities that were not previously thought of. I am released of the focus on the image and can direct my attention onto the scene and the interaction of the protagonists instead. Relegating these duties to the DP completely.
Ultimately it is its analog properties that illuminate the Encounter, grounding the characters story in as much realism as the contrasting colours of their skin.
OMAN – A STORY OF IT’S OWN
The middle eastern kingdom of Oman serves as the backdrop for „the Encounter“.
We spent five nights in the desert. Fighting the red heat and sandstorms during the day that made it necessary to clean the camera every hour. Meanwhile the nights turned cold, demanding fires to be ignited.
Through canyons, river valleys and old cities Oman demonstrates that it has not yet lost its spirit to the artificiality that has already conquered other parts of the middle east.
WHAT WAS LEARNED
What the encounter delivers in the end is a human story grounded and enchanted by the surroundings within it is told.
With this project we learned what a true cooperation between Director and DP can bring forth, Josua and me created a film with a special atmosphere. By taking risks a film is made that differentiates itself in its work process, its look and in its authenticity.