The short film “Battle Fields” directed by Anouar H. Smaine, is an official selection at the International Filmmaker Festival of New York. The film will screen on Saturday, May 26, 2018 at Producers Club Theaters (located on (358 W 44th St, New York, NY 10036) at 19:46.
Anouar H. Smaine began his film career at a very early age. As both his parents were busy with their respective careers, his father Hadj Smain (Algerian character Actor, Director, and playwright) would often take him to different film sets and play rehearsals he was involved in. At the age of nine, Anouar took his first acting steps in “Cri de pierre” (Translated as “Cry of Stone”); a social drama. In both Algiers and Paris, Anouar H. Smaine learned about the impact of the arts on the human condition, human history and world cultures. Under the influence of his father and some artists who were family friends, he became more acquainted and drawn into the world of theater and drama (among those are French playwright Henri Cordreaux, comedian Hassan Belhadj, and international painter Jean Pierre Bellan).
After moving to the US as a teenager and completing all of his formal education, he began a long and arduous journey of collaborating with a diverse array of filmmakers in Los Angeles. His writing, directing, producing, and acting included different films amongst which are “Axis of Evil”, “Honor Among Thieves”, “Reign”, “Sharia”, “12 Strong”, “The Looming Tower” and the latest “Battle Fields” in which he brings to the big screen the story of a US veteran of the Iraq war (played by Sean Stone – son of film director Oliver Stone) and an Iraqi driver living in Los Angeles as a refugee (played by Anouar H. Smaine himself).
The film aims to raise awareness about post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in veterans and civilians alike and also attempts to highlight the humanity that exists in people regardless of race, faith, or nationality. Anouar’s work has garnered multiple nominations and awards in the US and abroad, among those are “Best Director” and “Best Producer” both in Beverly Hills, California and Bradenton, Florida for his medium length film “Sharia”. He currently resides in Hollywood, California where he continues to work as Director, Producer, and Actor.
Meet the Artist: NY Elite Interview with Director Anouar H. Smaine
NY Elite: Congratulations on being an official selection at the prestigious International Filmmaker Festival of New York. What are your thoughts about being accepted at IFFNY 2018 film festival and having your film screen in New York City?
Anouar H. Smaine: Let me first of all say thank you for the opportunity to share some of my thoughts on our film’s festival circuit as well as filmmaking in general.
I’m very grateful to the Selection Committee of IFFNY for picking our film for the 2018 Edition of the festival, as New York City is such an important stop for independent film and creative thought in general. Our film raises awareness about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in veterans and refugees and makes a point of highlighting the humanity that exists in all people regardless of their race or religion – I look forward to presenting “Battle Fields” to New York City’s diverse audiences on May 26th at 6:00pm.
NY Elite: Out of the 500 submissions worldwide, your film was selected as the top 40 for IFFNY. What does this mean for you in terms of representing your country/city at this international film competition?
Anouar H. Smaine: It’s an honor and a privilege to see our film selected out of so many other film submissions from the US and other parts of the world, and I thank IFFNY for their first vote of confidence for “Battle Fields”.
“Battle Fields” is a universal story that celebrates the triumph of the human spirit over National origin, race, and/or religion. I can’t be prouder than to know that we’ve made a film for and about our humanity rather than the supremacy of national identity, race, and/or religion. We live in a world where people tend to easily reject what doesn’t look, speak, and/or believe like them, and this film attempts to highlight that which unites us rather than divides us. It is for this specific reason that I feel like this film doesn’t belong to any specific country or city, rather, it belongs to anyone who believes in the possibility of a better world, and a peaceful life for all.
NY Elite: With what project are you partaking at IFFNY 2018? What is it about?
Anouar H. Smaine: We’re participating at IFFNY with “Battle Fields”; a film that brings together two people whose cultures, race, and religions may be different, but whose humanity is one.
Bobby, a US veteran of the Iraq war whose life spirals out of control because of PTSD, is picked up by Rasheed; an Iraqi limo driver who lives in Los Angeles as a refugee. As the two men discover each other’s backgrounds, tensions mount, leading to the most unexpected and life-changing circumstances.
As both the writer and director of the film, I wanted to contrast the lives of two people (An American veteran of Iraq, and an Iraqi refugee) whose existence was devastated by the same war. I did not want to get into politics with this film, but rather focus on the lasting psychological consequences endured by two men and their families, each in their own way.
NY Elite: Who else is involved in the making of this project? Tell us a little bit more about the story and who is in it.
Anouar H. Smaine: Many people have contributed valuable time and energy to help make this film and I’m grateful to all of them with no exception. I unfortunately cannot name everyone here as the list is long. My father Hadj Smain who has spent a lifetime acting, writing, and directing in both Algeria and France endured long hours of listening to me formulate the plot and modify it so many times and I so appreciate his patience, guidance and advice not only on this project, but on so many other ones.
Producer and long time friend Jonathan Angelier has been involved in the making of “Battle Fields” from the very beginning. What makes Jon a great producer is that he listens, analyzes then acts upon the data that’s presented to him. Him and I collaborate constantly on numerous projects and Jon has never failed to deliver amazingly – Battle Fields success is in great part due to his good understanding of the production process.
As an actor, Sean Stone delivered a great performance playing Bobby the US veteran with PTSD. Sean’s participation in “Battle Fields” made a difference because of the honesty and authenticity he brought to his character and I’m deeply grateful to him for that. I’m also grateful to Emily Debinie (Homeland, The Newsroom, Marco Polo) and Nikki McCauley for giving great performances as Leila and Molly respectively, two very complex characters in the film. I’m also grateful to Jake Clark, a real life veteran who gave me advice and guidance with regards to the character of Bobby. Jake works on a daily basis with veterans with PTSD through his non-profit organization “Save a Warrior”, so his input was especially valuable in getting as close to the truth of PTSD as possible and how this syndrome destroys those affected by it – military and civilians.
Other wonderful people whom greatly helped with the film are Aashish Mayur Shah, Dan Mackler, Lina H. Smaine, Jennifer Angelier, Corey Allen Kotler, Jessica Duval, Sahar El-Ghali, Stephanie Barber, Yan Rymsha, Khaled Sahour, Zac & Julie Aissaoui, Youcef Kohli, Raheel Nusratullah, Christine Pombo, Hussain Abdussalam, Nicole Marc, Dr. Judith Kullberg, Dr. Robert Angelier, Dr. Richard Stahler-Sholk, Dr. Betsy Morgan, Dr. Heather Laird Jackson, Lynne & Kheiri Gandhi.
I also thank our Associate Producer Amina Zhaman for being so active in promoting the film in different European markets and around the world. Last but not least, I want to thank Mohamad Tamimi who is originally from Baghdad, Iraq, who tremendously helped with translating English dialogues to spoken Iraqi and who gave valuable input about Iraq and its rich culture. I do not want to forget to thank all those who contributed financially to making this film as well – they are many – and I thank every single one of them from the bottom of my heart. My apologies to anyone I haven’t mentioned as I’m grateful to all.
NY Elite: What message do you want to convey with this project?
Anouar H. Smaine: What we’re trying to do with this film is to highlight the humanity that exists in all people regardless of their race, faith, or culture. No one has a trademark on happiness, on love, or on humanity. These are things that the film brings attention to and whose understanding is crucial to achieving peace for our children and future generations.
NY Elite: The Red Carpet Opening Ceremony and the Awards Gala will take place at the renowned Kaufman Astoria Studios of New York. Do you plan to attend the IFFNY Festival taking place on May 25-29, 2018? What do you want the audience at IFFNY to take away from this film?
Anouar H. Smaine: I do confirm that I will be attending the film festival from day one starting with the opening ceremony at Kaufman Studios on May 25th. I’m sincerely humbled to be able to walk in the shoes of some of Hollywood’s greatest artists, and hope to, one day, contribute a small fraction of what they’ve contributed themselves.
I think that if our film can shake consciences with regards to looking at those who do not look like us, do not speak our language, or do not hold our own beliefs, and simply see regular human beings as opposed to a threat or a danger, I’ll be very satisfied.
NY Elite: What makes a film great for you? Are there certain qualities that make a film better for you?
Anouar H. Smaine: Films are made to entertain and bring us joy. They are a modern way of telling stories to modern humans, and it’s a wonderful thing. A film can be great if it first of all tells a good story that’s well written, well directed, well acted, well edited, well scored, well promoted, well received, well distributed. That’s a filmmaker’s perspective. But in general, a film is great if it leaves a mark on an audience’s heart and conscience in the way that it makes it think about something greater than itself, something that serves the common good. A film can also be great because of how it entertains an audience and for a brief moment, makes it feel like it is part of a beautiful, interesting, entertaining, or magical story that’s played on the big screen.
NY Elite: Top 3 favorite films/projects you have been involved in?
Anouar H. Smaine: Battle Fields, The Looming Tower, Sharia.
NY Elite: What are your career highlights and achievements thus far?
Anouar H. Smaine: I honestly do not like to use the word “achievement” when it comes to my person as I consider myself a constant “Work in progress”. But to answer your question, I believe that my greatest achievement has been the ability to transform an idea into a story, a story into a script, and a script into a film that travels the world, is seen by different audiences, and garners multiple recognitions in the form of Awards. But what matters isn’t the awards themselves, it is rather the possibility of sharing one’s thoughts, thinking, and philosophy, if I may call it that, with people one doesn’t necessarily know and yet connects with them on so many levels.
I have done that with previous films like “Axis of Evil” and “Sharia” which earned “Best Director”, “Best Actor”, “Best Actress”, “Best Editing”, “Best Production” Awards in Beverly Hills, and a “Best Production” Award (Shared with Jonathan Angelier), “Best Actor” Awards in Bradenton, Florida, an “Honorable Mention” Award in Los Angeles, and many other nominations at different film festivals in the US and abroad. Another sense (or feeling) of achievement comes through being able to assemble and lead entire teams of technicians and actors for a lengthy period of time to turn an idea into a film. It is a very complex task that not many people outside of film production know about, but it’s challenging and exciting at the same time and that’s why we keep on doing it.
NY Elite: Do you express yourself creatively in any other ways?
Anouar H. Smaine: Yes, I do write and play some guitar. Although I admit that it’s been much less frequent in the past decade or so when it comes to playing guitar unfortunately.
NY Elite: What advice would you give to someone who wants to have a career in filmmaking?
Anouar H. Smaine: I think the best thing I could say to anyone starting out is this: You will fail many times; know it and accept it. Believe in yourself, be open minded, listen and observe a lot, know how to stay quiet sometimes, be grateful and helpful as much as you can, work hard everyday, and know that it’s not going to be easy, so be very patient. Stay focused, create, and be kind everyday ~ Wishing you the very best.
NY Elite: What’s next for you?
Anouar H. Smaine: I’m working on three different projects currently; two features and a short film, which I’ll be producing for my filmmaking partner and good friend Jonathan Angelier (He will be directing this time around). As for the features, one is to be shot this upcoming summer between Los Angeles and Austin, Texas, the other one I’ll be directing and Jonathan Angelier Producing in 2019. I unfortunately cannot say more about all three projects other than the fact that they will all be very entertaining and have a strong social and human message.