Famous performer, writer, filmmaker Amina Zhaman has had a successful artistic career thanks to her multi-talents. Her latest project “Battle Fields” will screen at the IFFNY on Saturday, May 26, 2018 at 6:00pm at Producers Club Theatre, where she will be available for Q&A along with director Anouar H. Smaine.
NY Elite: What made you pursue film making?
Amina Zhaman: Strong desire to hear my music on screen. Soundtrack of the movie was the main reason I started my big career in film industry. The chronology of my work is not the same as I thought it would be. Moreover it is totally opposite from my dreams’ chronology. I would say what is happening in my life is like a backward of my original career script. I was sure I will first make it in music industry, then in drama theatre, then in cinema. I did not plan to do a feature film first, I never wanted to direct or produce, I couldn’t imagine that all my films will win at prestigious international film festivals, and I will give master-classes on filmmaking at a festival in NY or NY’s Digital Film Academy in Istanbul…
NY Elite: What is your greatest achievement till date?
Amina Zhaman: In my opinion, it is my instrumental music and my 70 songs in English. You can hear my music in all my films. I’m very proud of my 6 music videos too.
NY Elite: Tell us about your current/latest project.
Amina Zhaman: My latest project is a short film “Battle Fields” (19 min., USA, directed by Anouar H. Smaine). I Associate Produced it. It is a war drama with humanist message. Film touches many subjects – family, home, PTSD, children, peace. I collaborated with very talented people on this project – Anouar H. Smaine who directed, wrote and acted in the movie, producers Jonathan Angelier and Jennifer Angelier to name a few. We worked on a distance. They were in Los Angeles by the time of pre-production and filming, I was in Moscow and New York. It sounds amazing, but the first time I saw Anouar, Jonathan and Jennifer live was in March this year. Together we successfully presented our movie at Idyllwild International Festival of Cinema 2018. Film was nominated in 8 categories and it is already a big honor and professional acclaim to us.
“Battle Fields” was an Official Selection like, for example, another strong film – “Lies We Tell” – starring Golden Globe winner, great Irish actor Gabriel Byrne, who I saw on Broadway just 2 years ago in 2016 as James Tyrone in Eugene O’Neill’s masterpiece “Long Day’s Journey Into Night”. This fact only is impressive enough, isn’t it? Today our film is selected by programmers of a few prestigious film festivals overseas. Next screening will be at International Filmmaker Festival of New York 2018. The whole team of “Battle Fields” is excited about NY Premiere because there’s nothing like New York. Out movie conquered hearts of people on the West Coast and it is coming to the East Coast to do so too.
NY Elite: What drew you to this project and what excited you about making this film?
Amina Zhaman: The plot, the script and the people – I wanted to work with them. To me it is always a combination of two things that attracts me in any project I join – great material and nice people. Talent only is a never enough reason for me to collaborate with people. Talent must come with honor. I don’t want to work with talented but at the same time immoral people. After film is ready I want to be able to shake hands with my colleagues and keep respecting them as humans.
NY Elite: What do you hope the audience will take away from this film?
Amina Zhaman: That peace is the answer. Peace is a foundation of love and respect.
NY Elite: What films have been the most inspiring or influential to you and why?
Amina Zhaman: “Midnight Express” (1978) by Alan Parker, “Scarface” (1983) by Brian De Palma, “Salvador” (1986) by Oliver Stone, “Titanic” (1997) by James Cameron, “The Aviator” (2004) by Martin Scorsese and “The Motorcycle Diaries” (2004) by Walter Salles. Great stories that turned into brilliant scripts and later into unforgettable, inspiring movies. Everybody who knows me knows that I love social movies, festival movies with strong message. Especially I love films shot in prison.
So “Midnight Express” is that kind of masterpiece. And Giorgio Moroder’s beautiful music as its soundtrack makes you want to cry at the end when a hero runs. James Horner’s music for “Titanic” is the best OST ever, in my opinion. “Scarface” – Al Pacino’s genius acting, cult Miami locations (I love Miami), beautiful views. Heroes of these films are all dreamers. They all have a big imagination.
One dreams of freedom – in “Midnight Express”, another – of better life – in “Scarface”, one dreams of peace – a priest in “Salvador” – his speech is just breathtaking, some dream of love – like Jack & Rose in “Titanic”, another – of better world in general – young Che Guevara in “The Motorcycle Diaries”. These films inspired and influenced me because I’m a dreamer too. Speaking of Scorsese’s “The Aviator”, I admire creators. Howard Hughes was that kind of person and totally deserves worldwide audience’s attention. Great cast in every film I mentioned is an example how to cast actors, in my opinion. Al Pacino, Leonardo DiCaprio, Gael Garcia Bernal are my favorite actors and of course their acting impressed me a lot as a viewer and inspired me a lot as an actress.
NY Elite: Which book would you love to make a film out of one day?
Amina Zhaman: Paulo Coelho’s novel “The Winner Stands Alone”.
NY Elite: Can you tell us about the greatest moment in your film career?
Amina Zhaman: Winning an Audience Award for Best Feature Film (“Right to Love”) at Albanian Film Week 2013 in New York was the greatest moment in my film career. Most of the cast and crew were there with me including legendary Albanian actress and my dear friend Pavlina Mani, my best friend Andrew Thomas was there to support me, my film was not only a Winning, but also a Closing Film of the festival. It was amazing. Being Circassian and winning a major prize at Albanian Film Week is absolutely fantastic. And I think it is possible only in New York. That’s why I love NY. Impossible is nothing there.
NY Elite: Which particular film maker has influenced you the most?
Amina Zhaman: Oliver Stone. I met him in Moscow last year. It is a blessing to talk to person you admire.
NY Elite: What advice would you give to someone who wanted to have a life creating film?
Amina Zhaman: Be ready to do more than you plan, work harder than you expect. Through screen tell only those stories that worth watching. Make such films that you will watch yourself again and again. And when film is ready, only 50% of work is done. Now be ready to promote and market it, because without media promo your work doesn’t exist for general audience. And if you are an actor/director – without media you don’t exist either. A-List Hollywood, Bollywood, Hong Kong directors/actors are on top in this field because they understand the importance of work ethic, talent, hard work and 70 interviews per day before and during worldwide theatre release.