THE LOST JEWS OF PAKISTAN, 12min., USA
Directed by Alexander Nilsen
Imagine a scenario where a teenage boy's compassion shines through for a religious community that was forgotten, transforming a neglected graveyard into a place of beauty and solace. That's the heartwarming story we captured in our documentary: The Lost Jews of Pakistan. It's a tale that will inspire audiences and remind them of the incredible power of unifying religions while honoring our ancestors.
Get to know the writers Eric Brionez & Zeineddine Zuberi
1. What motivated you to make this film?
Zein - I wanted to raise attention to the lost Jewish community of Pakistan. Wanted to build bridges between people across faiths.
Eric - Zeineddine's father randomly called me at 11pm one day and told me about his son restoring a graveyard in Pakistan. I was immediately intrigued by the storyline and compelled to help bring it to life visually! I knew it was going to be challenging as this was my first short film to produce. But his father and I really clicked over the phone, we had this natural chemistry and commitment to see it through. So the motivation for me was to deliver a film his father and Zeineddine could be proud of. While also finding a way to educate the audience and weaving in emotional elements of humanity.
2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?
Zein - Appx 4 months (December-April)
Eric - December is when Zeineddine and his family traveled to Pakistan and by chance ran into this cemetery in Karachi. The film itself took 2 months to complete accompanied by 2 script rewrites.
3. How would you describe your film in two words!?
Zein - Heartwarming, Incredible
Eric - Educational, Hope
4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?
Zein - Getting footage of the graveyard which is located in an extremely dangerous part of Karachi, Pakistan.
Eric - To Zeineddine's point, they weren't able to have professional cameras shooting in the cemetery as it was too dangerous to have that expensive of equipment there. The caretakers and natives visiting the graveyard could be offended and provoked by them shooting. So they had to do their best getting footage from their phones. So that's what the biggest challenge was to tell the story in the proper light, as I only have photos and short clips of videos of the restoration of the Jewish grave site. That's when our Director Alexander Nilsen stepped in to help me with this project. He shot the interview with Zeineddine at their home and we decided to add in Narrator to guide the story along.
5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?
Zein - I felt proud and happy.
Eric - I was amazed by the audience reception of the film! While I was worried that the existing phone footage may detract from the story, I was relieved that no one from the feedback video mentioned it. Instead they were really impressed with the character of Zeineddine, he really is the star of the documentary! It was also validating to hear from many that they were impressed by the script writing, the educational context shown in the beginning, the structure of the story (3 Acts) along with the selection of the background music. All of that as the Producer made me feel proud to be a part of.
6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?
Zein - When I went to the graveyard and started doing the restoration work.
Eric - I actually started my creative journey as a graphic designer, then to web design, which morphed into a career in Video Production. Most of these skills came as self-taught so I didn't take the typical filmmaker path. While I mainly work on the corporate side of video, I always find time to shoot passion projects where either I'm the director or producer. I say that to say this, as a creative I feel like there are no limits to where it can lead you so in a sense I had the ideas of making films even as a kid. I remember in grade school my brothers and I would re-enact our favorite movie scenes like Terminator 2, Dumb and Dumber to name a few. Then I always had a passion for writing during high school where I eventually kept getting better at writing scripts.
7. What film have you seen the most in your life?
Zein - 3 idiots, a funny Bollywood movie.
Eric - The Matrix, when it first came out it really was such a groundbreaking movie and how movies are shot! If it pops up on tv and even if it's halfway through the movie, I'll end up watching the rest. Same as the movies I mentioned above.
8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?
Zein - Resources for young filmmakers.
Eric - I think you guys do a wonderful job with all of the promotions you do of your films so far so hats off to you! In general, festivals can incorporate more public/live events where networking can be essential. Maybe a live stream Q&A from audience members. Also resources to connect with other fellow filmmakers and investors looking for talent to create their next project.
9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?
Zein - Very easy to handle/ great user interface.
Eric - It's been awesome and saved me much time to search and find the best festivals to submit to. Since our film is a very niche story and short doc, it was important for me to know which ones are most suited for the film. Film Freeway made it real easy to research and submit to.
10. What is your favorite meal?
Zein - A triple turkey cheeseburger from Black Tap in NYC with an oreo cookie monster milkshake, complete with 2 pounds of whipped creme.
Eric - My mom's homemade tacos, I could eat them everyday and not get tired of them!
11. What is next for you?
Zein - A new film.
Eric - Following the success of this film yes as Zeineddine said, we plan on doing another documentary about restoring a gravesite. We hope to build more of a community around restoring graveyards that have been neglected as we strongly feel people are compelled to honor those who have passed on so if anyone is interested please reach out from our website and check for more updates there: www.ZeinZuberi.com
For myself I currently shopping around my first memoir Ralph to the Rescue: How my childhood cat saved our family which as you can guess is about my childhood cat. For more information on that visit: https://erbancreative.com/book
I also have a script for a short horror film that I'd like to get to the silver screen! In the meantime I'll continue to provide services through my creative agency Erban Creative.