By Sahar Moussa
Mohammed Abdullah Al-Houli is a 40-year-old married Kuwaiti and a government employee since 2002. He also works in the field of media, specifically short films and commercial advertisements. For Houli, working in the government sector provides job security, a chance to pursue higher academic studies, and a chance to work on projects by directing films and commercials.
Additionally, the daily work timings in the government sector allows for engaging in freelance projects as they materialize. Houli completed his bachelor’s degree from the Higher Institute for Theatrical Arts as a film director, and is planning to continue pursuing master’s and doctorate degrees. In a special interview with Kuwait Times, Houli describes his journey in the local media industry in Kuwait. Some excerpts.
Kuwait Times: What made you pursue filmmaking or what was your drive behind making films?
Mohammed Al-Houli: Mainly to positively influence people’s convictions.
KT: Who or what was your inspiration?
Al-Houli: I don’t have specific sources for inspiration, be it principles or people. I consider inspiration a divine fortune.
KT: You won the second prize in the short documentary category at the Third Kuwait Film Festival; can you tell us more about the movie and what is it about?
Al-Houli: I wanted to share valuable information about filmmaking with the public with my documentary. I’m well-versed in the field of cinematography and wanted to present something that would provide valuable content and information for years to come.
KT: What roadblocks did you face when you were starting out?
Al-Houli: My biggest roadblock has been understanding the legal and commercial frameworks of the local media industry.
KT: How many movies have you done till now?
Al-Houli: About 15 to 17 cinematic projects.
KT: How did you come up with the idea for your film?
Al-Houli: It all starts with a certain musical piece or an image that comes across my sight.
KT: What has been your biggest challenge, and how did you overcome it?
Al-Houli: My biggest challenge was to overcome my personal fear of failure. Once I overcame this fear, all other challenges have diminished in comparison.
KT: What, in your opinion, is the most important quality in a film director?
Al-Houli: Storytelling and script. How the story takes shape and how it gets told. Having a well-written script will bridge the gap between the director, the cinematographer and the acting talents.
KT: Which film has inspired you the most?
Al-Houli: The Message.
KT: Which particular filmmaker has influenced you the most?
Al-Houli: I would say Moustapha Akkad.
KT: Which book would you love to make a film out of one day?
Al-Houli: Digital Cinematography by Paul Wheeler.
KT: Your movie ‘The Red Box’ also got recognition outside Kuwait – can you tell us more about it?
Al-Houli: The events revolve around the arrest of a globally wanted hacker who works for a criminal organization. But instead of working with them again, he works with the army on behalf of the state. When refusing to work again with the criminal organization, they torture him and cut part of his hand.
KT: What do you think about the movie and filmmaking industry in Kuwait? Is it getting adequate support? If not, why?
Al-Houli: As for the local scene, we don’t have a shortage in support when it comes to production or funding projects. The shortcomings are instead evident when it comes to distributing finished work. Additionally, local audience perception of local work needs to be more aligned with the general field of cinema.
KT: In your opinion, what does the movie industry need in order to reach a global stage?
Al-Houli: Higher production support as well as stronger distribution efforts as mentioned in the previous question.
KT: Do you agree with the argument that lack of talent in the artistic scene could be one of the reasons that Kuwait is still struggling to reach the global stage, especially when comparing it to the level of talent during the Golden Age of Kuwait’s cinema and theatre?
Al-Houli: I don’t agree with the point, as the common public’s perception of performance arts is based on the realms of television and theatre. If the public had adequate perception of the cinematic field in addition to the aforementioned fields, the situation would have been vastly different and cinematic production would have been much bigger. Moreover, the audience still lack confidence in local works and favor purchasing a movie ticket of a global release instead of a local film.
KT: Can you tell us more about your upcoming project(s)? Are you working on a new movie? If yes, can you give us a brief about it?
Al-Houli: I’m currently planning to pursue my master’s degree in cinematography and filmmaking, as well as receiving and executing advertisement projects. Proceeds from these projects will fund my own cinematic projects.
KT: Do you have any advice for young filmmakers out there?
Al-Houli: My advice for young filmmakers is to participate in advertisement projects, as such projects provide experience in a multitude of techniques.