The final month of summer has come and gone, and our big winner this time comes from the US, in the form of a monochrome drama about humanity and justice, among others. We spoke to Omar Parker, the director of the excellent Okhti.
JL: Omar, our sincerest congratulations for the two awards! We had many great contestants this month, but your project came on top after long deliberations!
Omar: Thank you! I’m so happy I could bring my project to such an amazing festival.
JL: Before we tackle your project, let’s talk about yourself. Where does your love of film come from?
Omar: If we’re talking about what made me like film, my father was a web designer who worked from home as I was growing up. He would have all kinds of movies on at all times, ranging form his personal DVD collection to Turner Classic Movies. I’d say being exposed to that as a kid is probably the reason for my love of film. What really made me want to become a filmmaker was seeing Inception in theaters at the age of 12. I remember it very vividly, just being completely blown away in that theater by what was possible with filmmaking. From that day forward I knew I wanted to make movies.
JL: What are some other highlights from your filmmaker career?
Omar: Most of my background actually comes from producing, and running a production company known as Egerton Crescent Productions. Over the past 2 years we have had short film projects at Sundance, Cannes, Tribeca, TIFF and Berlin. Now we are trying to move into television, but I felt as though I wanted to try to make something with myself truly at the helm before I made such a large transition.
JL: Now, about Okhti. How did you come up with the idea behind it?
Omar: I came up with Okhti while watching some post apocalyptic films. I felt that a way I could perhaps differentiate myself from other films in the genre was by stating my point in a muted, low stakes way. By taking away the guns and explosions, I feel I was able to create a unique take on a very saturated genre.
JL: Does the name ‘Okhti’ carry any special meaning, does it have a metaphorical significance?
Omar: Okhti simply means sister in Arabic, in reference to the titular character.
JL: And speaking of metaphors, could your choice of sport – paragliding – also be thought of as one? Not only through its more direct impact on hopes and dreams, but perhaps its accessibility to a select group of characters?
Omar: You’re absolutely right! I chose paragliding to represent how far away “wealthy” people seem to those in poverty in regards to social status. I wanted the wealthy to literally descend from the heavens and have their left overs picked up by the locals.
JL: If you took away all traces of dystopian elements from your film, would its core essence remain the same?
Omar: I think it would, I believe that the dystopian elements simply show that in some ways nothing has changed or will change. We are already at that point of dystopia in many parts of the world, where the rich have the power to help the poor, but simply do not.
JL: Where was the film shot?
Omar: The film was shot in the United States and Beirut, Lebanon.
JL: Are you working on any new projects at the moment?
Omar: I’m working on a few television pitches with fellow colleagues Charlie Burt, and Dennis Aig, but I can’t really say anything about that right now. I also am working on my second short film called Its Own Reward which will be shooting in a few weeks. It is my first attempt at the action genre, so fingers crossed that it will all work out.
JL: Thank you so much, Omar, for talking to us about Okhti! We wish you all the best with your film, and hope to see some of your work again at TMFF!