Interview with Filmmaker Samia Zaidi (INSIDE OUT TERRAIN)

INSIDE OUT TERRAIN played to rave reviews at the September 2020 Experimental Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

Shay approached the three of us in February – she was the curator behind this team. We had been discussing the possibility of a collaboration for years but I think it became so much more accessible when our respective quarantines required a little additional creativity on our ends to find new ways to collaborate. There was something about the way the pandemic was impacting our communities and other BIPOC communities that made the impacts of colonialism so glaringly apparent and a frequent topic whenever we spoke. It’s been an excruciating time for everyone but disproportionately more excruciating for communities of color and marginalized communities at large. It was a discussion we were having a lot at the time and the piece manifested from that.

For me personally, I’m sick of toxic positivity culture and the stereotype of strong melanated humans. I want raw voices and vulnerability and truth to circulate with more courage from those generating the messaging but also those who are brave enough to pass it along. Radically gentle truth that is received and processed by it’s audience in a way that makes the world feel ownable by everybody again. Art like that will change the world. Maybe even give melanated humans an opportunity to finally let their guards down and be soft again. Society needs to stop giving us reasons to be so fucking strong all the time.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?

Many lifetimes and centuries. From initial discussion regarding visuals to the publication, it took 1 moon cycle so 28 days. That wasn’t planned. Archival research and assembly from start to finish probably took around 6/7 days.

3. How would you describe your short film in two words!?

Gentle and Radical

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

I can only speak for myself and the visual components: it was probably the inner work it took. As artists I think we find ways to make our inner experience accessible to others. There’s not a lot of encouragement to be so bold or truthful about the impacts of imperialism when imperialism insists on being the hand that feeds you. All of this casual violence we watch or experience daily – some of it overt like the endless senseless videos of police brutality that are constantly circulating and some of it covert like the maintenance of equilibrium for the sake of preserving momentum in corporate environments at the expense of your colleagues of color. Those were the big themes that were in my heart and mind when I began reacting visually to Shay’s poem. It was a rare opportunity to be really creatively honest and that was a journey.

My day job is as a visual researcher and I joke that it’s akin to digital dumpster diving. To find all of this footage, I had to sift through a lot of actual wartime stuff to imperial propaganda and that was pretty disturbing. To add insult to injury, some agency in London tried to charge me money for the rights to public domain footage of the unrest during the partition between India and Pakistan. First of all, it’s public domain and you’re acting like a troll under a bridge. Second, sweetie, my ancestors paid in blood. Sit down.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

Gratitude for everyone who took time to record and cut this together, for the kind words. It was super cool to watch and very kind of you all to do that and something I’ve never received from a film festival before. It’s extra special because this was a very DIY project given the restrictions with covid and there was so much great feedback about each of our contributions.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. How did you come up with the idea for this short film?

I can’t say that I did. I’m mostly listed as the director on film freeway because I’m the only person in this group who is a director by trade. When I say that this piece was truly collaborative, I mean it in the truest sense of the word – we all worked pretty independently with mutual respect. Mostly, I was asked to react to the other components and the tools in my arsenal generated this visual approach.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

Probably Gremlins.

8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

It’s fine. Convenient. Platform.

9. What song have you listened to the most times in your life?

Nirvana’s been on almost every mixed cd or playlist I’ve made since I was 14. “Come As You Are” was the first song I heard by them and it still gets me the same way every time I listen to it.

10. What is next for you? A new film?

I’ve got a couple music videos in post at the moment! Ones going through color, the other is just about picture-locked. Super excited for both of them. Other than that, I just finished editing a tiny piece that I shot on Halloween that I was just going to post to social for kicks. It’s with the composer right now.

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