Sunday, November 19, 2006

Do Buy! - An Interview with Omair Barkatullah

First of all, congratulations on a very inspiring documentary film. Can you tell me briefly about your background and why you chose 'Dubai' as a subject for your documentary?
I took a course in Anthropological Documentary and this was my final film. I have always been interested in cities and their architecture, and how they affect people's lives. I am also interested in visual messages and how people manipulate them. Dubai is so concerned with its image and being modern and this is what makes so many go there. So Dubai seemed like an extreme example of a kind of capitalist theatre. I was interested in the strange results of the elite/natives (who people accuse of not having any culture or history) planning a city from scratch and the results of this big plan.

When you started filming 'Do Buy!', did you have a set process in mind about the message the film is going to deliver or it just evolved over a period of time?
I knew that I wanted to explore themes like:
a. Accessibility, which concerns elitism, workers and going to places in the city.
b. The mall as the only 'street' to meet other people and shopping as the only activity.
c. The fake and the real.
d. How people become anonymous in the metropolis.
e. The out-of-context things in Dubai and the sameness of all modern places.
f. Wealth, class and race groups and the narratives that surround it. And some others.

I don't know what the big conclusions in the film. I need to live in Dubai to make conclusions.

What were your initial impressions about Dubai, and is there something you found radically different from your perception about the place?
Malls are the only places to hang out. It is too hot or barren anywhere else. There is so much space and everything is so far that you need to drive. It is not a city for walking around like London.
There are more Indians/Pakistanis than I expected. Not all of Dubai is glossy and well built. There are parts that look like parts of Pakistan. So much of the architecture was strange to me, like the Police Headquarters and all the towers on Sheikh Zayed Road. It is not like anything 'Western' which people said it was. It is strange.

The people appearing in your documentary were instrumental in bringing forth the contradicting emotions that the city evokes. How did you achieve this and were people apprehensive to voice their opinions on record?
No one was apprehensive about talking to the camera. I think they trusted me because I'm of Indian roots and I'm Muslim, so there was an immediate link. People are very friendly unless they are treating you like a customer.

As for contradictions there are people who think Dubai exploits workers, but then some workers love it there. Some think it is the perfect city, and others who think it is a shallow place. There are narratives and myths about the UAE Arabs. I think the views I left in are the ones that highlight things that help us interpret the images.

What are your future plans and will we be seeing more films on similar lines based in the region?
I would like to do more in the UAE, unless they have seen the film and banned me from the country. It would be great to do a longer study and a longer film. I haven't interviewed any UAE Arabs, Europeans or Filipinos as the film wasn't about them. There are many layers of inter-race, inter-cultural relations that would be interesting to look at.

And finally, would you be surprised if the security guard at the Mall of Emirates pays the price for making some insightful observations?
I think he is beyond caring. He seemed like he was dying to get his opinions out. He is a really witty man and a good observer. It may be that he is just a really bitter character generally and found a good chance to rant. I would like to get hold of him and show him the film. I think he has a huge fan club now.

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Watch the 3-part documentary here.
View Omair's another documentary film Typography School in You Tube and please drop in your feedback on his You Tube page.

6 Comments:

Blogger Keefieboy said...

I'm too lazy to sign up with YouTube to leave a comment, but I want him to know I thought 'Do Buy' was a brilliant piece of work.

4:04 pm  
Blogger Woke said...

Keefie,
I will let him know. :D

4:08 pm  
Blogger Lirun said...

let him also know that he has a huge fan in israel - please

7:44 pm  
Blogger samuraisam said...

I also greatly enjoyed his documentary and it pretty much inspired me to start my video blog (provided I can find anything to film /:)

Also, great work on the interview woke!

12:20 am  
Blogger Woke said...

Sure Lirun and thanks Sam.

Good luck on the video blog too. Dont run into the Secret Service like bklyn_in_dubai did.

8:23 am  
Blogger Anne said...

hi, i like your movie,... found you on the TINAG site. Am leaving for Dubai tomorrow and would like to be in touch. Any way I can contact you directly?

3:12 pm  

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