Rough Cut Projects
Concrete Land is an intimate look at the lives of a Palestinian Bedouin family of three generations, in its struggle to hold on to its traditional life under the pressures of gentrification. Their only wish as a family is to stay together, with their loyal yet eccentric pet sheep Badrya firmly by their side.
Al-Najar is a Palestinian Bedouin family of three generations living in makeshift tents in one of Amman’s suburbs in Jordan, on land they don’t own, they lived as Bedouins with their different animals on that land for the past 21 years.
In recent years the area transformed into a high-class neighborhood. Their quiet Bedouin life is turned upside down when construction starts to creep up on them.
Their new neighbors are focused on kicking them out of the area in order to “clean up” the neighborhood. When one neighbor files a complaint against the family with the local government, the threat becomes a reality, and the family is forced to make a choice. To continue to be Bedouins and find new land to occupy; or abandon their lifestyle and move to the city.
The family is in a dire situation, they have conflicting inner desires and the tension between them and their new neighbors rises, Awad realizes the only way to resolve this tension is to relocate their tents.
Bedouin nomads have lived and prospered in Jordan for hundreds of years, but Nomadism and the Bedouin life is in constant decline all over the world under the unavoidable pull of urban life, that way of living is on a steady path towards extinction. CONCRETE LAND is a look into the intricate dynamics of a close-knit Bedouin family and their pet sheep as they navigate the increasing hostility they face from their non-Bedouin neighbors.
I intend to allow audiences to connect with individuals who at first glance may seem very unfamiliar to the average viewer and display the inescapable co-dependency we all have with each other regardless of cultural differences.
This is a film about the clash of tradition and modernity, The loss of identity, familial bonds, coming of age, and gentrification, and these issues are highlighted through the intersection of all of these themes through the family’s interaction with their surrounding society. Topics that are now more universal than ever as more and more people are subject to displacement and gentrification all over the world.
The central dilemma of these characters is a dilemma we all can relate to, how much do we hold on to our traditions, and how much do we engage in the modern world, it’s a universal aspect, that we as humans can all recognize and identify with, regardless of where we live and regardless of what our traditions are, and regardless of what our look to the modern world is.
Concrete land is a family drama with a touch of humor of three generations of Palestinian Bedouins living in makeshift tents in one of Amman’s suburbs in Jordan.
The family prospered with their different animals on that land for over 21 years. However, the area recently transformed into a high-class neighborhood, and their quiet Bedouin life was turned upside down when the expanding city starts to creep up on them.
Their new neighbors are focused on kicking them out of the land to “clean up” the neighborhood. One day, an eviction notice is issued and the threat of displacement becomes a sudden reality for the family. But gentrification is not the only issue the family has to deal with. Generational conflicts are also brewing.
The family’s elderly grandfather Abu Awad, who lived as a Bedouin his entire life is stuck in his old ways. When the family is forced to get rid of their animals, he takes it hard and avoids his responsibility as the family’s patriarch.
That burden falls on the shoulders of Awad. The eldest son and the only breadwinner of the family. Raised as a Bedouin his entire life, Awad is sweet and loving to his family, as a second-generation Bedouin, he’s mangled between the values of the old and the obligations of the new.
Eman, Awad’s daughter, is a sweet young girl coming of age. Kids at school bully her for looking different and ridicule her because she lives in a tent. She is oblivious to the problems her family is facing and doesn’t understand yet that the outcome of the conflict will have dire consequences for her life. Eman turns 13 this year, as she starts to navigate puberty, she struggles to form her identity amidst the clash between the Bedouin culture and the tempting modern world nearby
Hakima, the elderly grandmother, is a witty loving grandma who can’t hurt a fly, her favorite thing in the world is her pet sheep and her best friend Badrya. Like Abu Awad, she lived as a Bedouin her whole life. Upon receiving the eviction notice Hakima’s only goal was to keep the family together.
Badrya is the family’s pet sheep, Awad found her lost in the desert, he took her home, and gifted her as a present to Hakima. She’s been living with the family for 11 years, Badrya hates the heat and her favorite snack are cookies and Fizzy drinks. Badrya wants the family to continue to live as Bedouins so that she can continue living happily with the family.
The tension between the new neighbors and Awad and his family grows worse by the day, the neighbor is unhappy with their living situation and sees them as an inconvenience to his lifestyle, he finds himself often cleaning up trash bags that fly to his lawn from their side, in addition to the animal’s smell that bothers him, after multiple warnings, the neighbor is fed up, he files a formal complaint with the local government against the family’s living situation, two government officials show up and hand the family an eviction notice, they either get rid of their animals or move, that’s when the first threat of displacement materializes, and the family realizes they have to make a decision fast.
Awad and Hakima confront the neighbor about the notice hoping they would be able to keep their animals, but they soon realize that won’t happen, they get together to make the hard decision, of letting their animals go, and that is when they find themselves as Bedouins without their animals for the first time, this takes a hard hit on the family and sends them in a downward spiral.
The family get rid of their animals in response to the complaint, but shortly after, their most recent neighbor comes in to inform them that he will be moving in soon and asks them to leave by the time he moves into his house as their presence too close to his newly built house, is of inconvenience to him and his family.
As moving day approaches, Awad has to make a decision, of either moving with his kids to an apartment building, and provide them with a better life and a better future, or to move with his elderly parents into tents all over again.
Asmahan Bkerat is a Palestinian-Jordanian documentary filmmaker. Her love for cinema has led her to work in various roles on films of different scales, before setting on the path to documentary film.
Bkerat has worked on international promos for the UEFA and the upcoming German feature documentary WATERPROOF (2019), which premiered at IDFA. She has also worked on Hollywood blockbusters such as Disney’s ALADDIN (2019) and Sky One’s STRIKE BACK.
Bkerat’s first short documentary “Badrya” won the Jury Prize for Best MiniDoc at the Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival. She is currently working on her first feature-length documentary “CONCRETE LAND” which got the IDFA Bertha Fund and DFI grant. She also has two short documentaries in post. She is an alumnus of the IDFA Academy, DFI, The Scottish Documentary Institute, The Whickers, The American Film Showcase, Cannes Docs in progress and the RFC.
The development/research for Concrete Land concluded in 2017, shortly afterward, production started in January of 2018, the film went through many different phases and changes, the main character changed multiple times and the narrative kept progressing. Production is ongoing. We plan to keep filming till the beginning of 2022, and that is when the family is expected to make the move that will happen due to the pressure of their neighbors and the eviction notice they received.
We are planning to begin post production alongside production due to the nature of the gilm, to make sure the production process goes smoothly and to get a better sense of the film in the editing room before the family makes their final move, in case we needed to reshoot.
Currently, Concrete land is part of the IDFA project space and SDI’s connecting stories, both programs are aimed to guide the film and ensure the best results in making it.
The post-production process is expected to go through till November of 2022 and that is when we expect to have a finished film.
2017: Short doc “Badrya”
2018: Principal photography for Concrete Land / Beginning of Production
2019-2021: Production/ Post Production
2022: Post-Production/ Finished film
Total Budget: $ 200,000
Concrete Land is currently in Production
Story of two parallel journeys; one in which thousands of Sufi pilgrims march together over days and miles to proclaim unrequited love for humanity, enduring physical pain and in the other a disabled, marginal Muslim man tries to transform his life fighting against physical and economic challenges in search of self-actualization, love and compassion.
The film follows Farooq, a disabled, marginal Muslim travelling street hawker, as he embarks on a motorbike road trip to join the march of pilgrims who for the past eight hundred years walk ceremoniously for thirteen days each year to reach the shrine of the great Sufi saint Khwaja Mainuddin Chishti (aka Gharib Nawaz, benefactor of the poor), travelling more than 400 kilometres on foot as a mark of respect, devotion and love on the occasion of his death anniversary. This annual ritual attracts thousands of Sufi believers from all over south Asia, transcending sects and societal classes, marching together and carrying staves with colourful flags on top, walking in tableaus throughout the day and camping on the roadside during the night to cook, sing and rest. For about a month or so these self-proclaimed aashiks (lovers) of Gharib Nawaz stay in a commune and move together in search of purifying one’s soul and to renounce physical pleasure and all materialistic endeavours.
It is a film about two parallel journeys. In one, farooq is a participant, cruising along with many through a rough terrain and letting us observe the marginal existential realities of several people like him from different walks of life, class and gender. The other journey is more sublime, where he opens the door for us to peek into his amazing checkered life; beginning with the grueling story of how he lost both his forearms in a fire at a tender age and how he transformed his life from living off other people’s charity to being a sought after seller of women’s junk jewelries in Mumbai’s suburban trains. He confides how he came tantalizing close to being a peddler and how he was saved by the Sufi doctrines of his Murshid (teacher) which propels him to participate in this annual march for the past ten years to reclaim self-belief and faith. He confides candidly about his two marriages and about his current economic predicament. The prolonged Covid lockdown has left him jobless for more than a year and now he is forced to relocate to Kolkata with his teenage son.
Farooq along with the procession finally reaches the shrine of Garib Nawaz. He meets his son there, who has travelled from Kolkata and takes him to a tour of the holy city telling him all the myths of how the city was built by the great saint and a posse of djinns to spread the noble Sufi tradition. While Farooq feels happy to reach the final destination of his journey, somewhere in the back of his mind he knows a new one begins from here. He desperately needs to find some work; maybe he’ll loan some money to open a small shop in Kolkata selling jewelries and will be able to admit his son to a good school. Afterall, the almighty really loves his disciples.
On a cold, foggy, wintry night; Farooq leaves Kolkata on a motorbike. His destination lies a good 1700 km away in Ajmer, where he plans to reach in a month’s time. Farooq is a fifty something marginal, Muslim travelling street hawker who sells junk jewelries in Mumbai’s suburban trains. He lost his both forearms in a grueling accident in 1985. Since then he has tried to eke out an independent, respectable life for himself fighting against physical odds in his own charismatic manner. This evening however is different; having forced to relocate back to his city of birth, Kolkata from a more expensive Mumbai due to prolonged disruption of rail service as a result of Covid related lockdown, Farooq doesn’t have much savings to live off any further. He is in desperate need to earn. He has a few mouths to feed and an expensive addiction (hashish) to maintain. He loves his motorbike, which he uses to travel between places and to show off his exemplary hands-free riding skill and stunts. Tonight, he is off to join the march of thousands of marginal believers who for the past eight hundred years walk ceremoniously for 13 days from the Dargah Sharif of the Sufi saint Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki in Delhi to the Dargah Ajmer Sharif of Gharib Nawaz (Benefactor of the poor), travelling more than 400 kilometres on foot to commemorate the annual ‘Urs’ festival of Khwaja Mainuddin Chishti. Farooq has been a part of this procession for the past ten years. This annual ritual attracts thousands of Sufi believers from all over south Asia, transcending sects and societal classes, marching together and carrying staves with colourful flags on top, walking in tableaus throughout the day and camping on the roadside during the night to cook, sing and rest. For about a month or so these self-proclaimed aashiks (lovers) of the great sufi saint, Khwaja Mainuddin Chishti stay in a commune and move together in search of purification of their soul, renouncing materialistic endeavours.
As soon as Farooq leaves Kolkata, he has to ward off a dense fog which made navigation rather impossible. He spends the night near a Dargah (shrine) in Howrah before resuming his journey in the morning. His first pitstop is Jamshedpur from where he moves further north to Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh to spend few days with his friend, Chawanni Mai, a revered member of the hijra community of Aligarh. Hijras, are a special south Asian community of transgender and intersex people who are considered to have the power to bless as well as curse. They are mostly seen dressed in glittering saris at the household after the birth of a child, dancing and singing to bless the new born. Chawanni leads a procession from Aligarh in their march to Ajmer from Delhi every year. It is there that Farooq has befriended her and Chawanni has taken a bit of shine to this man and makes it a point to sponsor a part of Farooq’s expenses during the march. From Aligarh, Farooq travels straight to the shrine of Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki in Delhi, where everyone assembles around three days before the commencement of the march. This three-day congregation in Delhi is known as “Chariyo’n ka Mela” (Fair of the staves). These three days are the happy times for everyone as they meet their comrades and the travelling partners after a year. This year the mood is a bit sombre due to economic uncertainties arising from lockdown and an unspoken apprehension on how the next few days will pan out as the travellers will have to march through large swathes of Haryana and Rajasthan which have seen unprecedented rise in Hindu nationalist fervor in recent years that looks at any Islamist procession as potential threat to their existence; not even sparing the most liberal mystical practice in Islam, i.e. Sufism.
Thirteen days, thirteen destinations.
Farooq revs his bike through the army of foot soldiers marching towards the first destination of Firozpur Jhirka in Haryana. He breaks into reminiscing about his past, his growing years in Kolkata. How incorrigible he was as a child in a household of a pious Muslim father and how all of that came to a sudden halt when at the tender age of fourteen, he burnt his hands while working in a shoe factory. After a series of operations, the doctor couldn’t salvage his arms and had to amputate both the forearms. About a year from this incident Farooq left his home for Mumbai. He started begging by singing Bollywood songs in the Mumbai suburban trains. Within no time he was earning about ten dollars a day. Way back in 80s, it was a handsome amount and he could’ve made begging his lifelong profession. He resisted the temptation and started hawking instead. From selling a dozen of handkerchief at a meagre price of two dollars he now sells unique junk jewelries at a premium in the reserved ladies’ compartment, where his clientele eagerly waits for his latest fare. The years have taught him several lessons, including how to seamlessly change between two moving trains without holding on to the rails.
During the midday halt at Nagina, Farooq spends time chatting up with Debabrata Bhattacharya, an upper caste Hindu fellow traveller over a chillum of hash. Debu, as he his fondly called hails from a village in Bengal. He occasionally works as an agricultural labour in other people’s lands, while his wife begs for alms at a railway station. He’s been a regular participant of the march for quite a few years now. This journey makes him happy, gives succor to his otherwise barely human existence and provides an opportunity to reunite with friends. Farooq an ardent admirer of old Bollywood songs shares a happy moment with Debu, listening together a popular oldie on his Bluetooth speaker.
Next day, the procession heads towards Alwar forest in Rajasthan. Farooq opens up a bit more and talks about his two marriages. The first one which his mother arranged in Kolkata was with a very attractive woman who however has impaired vision in one eye. Farooq thought it was a divine match as both of them were cursed by the almighty in one way or the other. The marriage didn’t last long as he fell for another woman in Mumbai with whom he has a son, Fahimuddin, who is now in his early teens.
The procession has now reached the outskirt of Sariska National Park, a tiger sanctuary. It will have to cross the forest by dusk. Legend has it that in the olden times two tigers use to accompany the travellers inside the forest, shepherding the procession safely out of the jungle. It now has a walkway, managed by the forest guards. Farooq and co. however meet few of the inhabitants of the park; a herd of deer and Nilgai and a troupe of monkeys. Farooq gets down from his bike to feed the animals while a gray langur climbs upon him. Once outside the forest the procession stops to cool their heels. Farooq shares his tale of woes during lockdown when the trains were all discontinued and how he had to suffer, use his bike as a makeshift shopping cart to sell fruits dirt cheap. He eventually gave up and took his son and left for Kolkata leaving his wife in Mumbai. He confides that while he never lamented after losing his arms but now, he feels scared as he needs to earn to secure his son’s future and to look after his studies. He doesn’t need much for himself except for tending to his expensive habit of indulging in hashish addiction.
At the pink city of Jaipur, the pilgrims take a couple of days break. Farooq visits the nearby shops selling semi-precious stones. He wants to buy some of those but can’t due to the exorbitant price tags. Jaipur is a big city which attracts a lot of tourists including foreigners. The local curio shops sell stones and jewelries at a high margin. Farooq ends up buying a jacket for himself and on his way back bumps into Haider, a mendicant Sufi practitioner from Howrah in Bengal, now living a life of a hermit in a forest near Ajmer. In 2019, he left his home to join the march. He was thrown out of a train midway by the railway guards suspecting him to be a terrorist due to his long beard, attire and a Muslim name. He remained undaunted and walked all the way to Delhi to join the march and travelled to Ajmer. Since then, he didn’t go back and during the lockdown stationed himself inside a forest, sleeping in a shrine and begging for alms in a nearby village. He however now needs to go back to his hometown to procure the state identity card as otherwise it is becoming difficult for him to even live in forests as a hermit. That night Farooq walks into a nearby forest, changes into a Sufi white dress, lights up a fire and dances to a popular Sufi chant, “Allah Hoo” till the crescent moon disappears from the sky and the day breaks.
The procession now, is moving closer to Ajmer. As the physical pain and the exhaustion of the marchers increase; the joyous fervor, breaking into spontaneous song and dance also reach its peak. Farooq observes that those who smile and bear the pain of their sore feet are the true worshippers of the saint. He also feels elated in hearing the news that his son is arriving Ajmer soon with few of his friends travelling from Kolkata.
As the march finally reaches the shrine of Garib Nawaz (the benefactor of the poor); everyone becomes ecstatic with joy. The customary celebration with deafening drumrolls and showering of rose petals begin as the marching mendicants step inside the shrine holding the flags high. Farooq meets his son and takes him to a tour of the holy city telling him all about the myths of how the city was built by the great saints and a posse of djinns to spread the noble Sufi tradition of inner search to purify one’s soul and to renounce materialistic endeavors by giving away everything to those who need it most. While Farooq is feeling happy to reach the final destination of his journey, somewhere in the back of his mind he knows a new begins from here. He needs to find some work in Kolkata and admit his son to a school; maybe he’ll get some money to open a small shop in south Kolkata selling junk jewelries to a premium clientele. Afterall, the almighty really loves his disciples.
Farooq is a fifty something marginal, Muslim travelling street hawker from India who sells junk jewelries in Mumbai’s suburban trains. He lost both his forearms in a grueling accident in 1985. Since then he has tried to eke out an independent, respectable life for himself fighting against physical odds in his own charismatic manner. He is forced to relocate back to his city of birth, Kolkata from a more expensive Mumbai due to prolonged disruption of rail service as a result of Covid related lockdown. Farooq doesn’t have much savings left to live off any further. He is in desperate need to earn money. He has a few mouths to feed, a teenage son to support and an expensive addiction (hashish) to maintain. He loves his motorbike, which he uses to travel between places and to show off his exemplary hands-free riding skill and stunts. He once came very close to being a peddler in his penchant to earn quick buck, but he was saved by the Sufi doctrines of his Murshid (teacher) which propels him to participate in this annual march for the past ten years to reclaim self-belief and faith. Farooq is an ardent admirer of old Bollywood songs; he listens to popular oldies in his Bluetooth speakers and sings along. Farooq is a deeply spiritual person constantly searching for inner peace but struggling to strike a balance due to his social and economic predicament, particularly affected by the lockdown.
Director/ Producer’s Biography
Partha Das, born in 1987 in Kolkata, India, is an audio-visual artist working across different media ranging from films, performance and installation art. His works have been showcased across various art galleries and institutions including Lalit Kala, India; Alliance Française du Bengale; Modern Art Museum, Michigan; Cultural Institute of Portugal. Thirteen Destinations of a Traveller is his maiden documentary feature. He is working on this project for the past three years having spent a good three months on the road with the pilgrims and walked along with them from Delhi to Ajmer for three consecutive years in search of characters and stories to narrate.
Soumya Mukhopadhyay, born in 1974 in Kolkata, India, has recently left his full-time job of a market researcher after nearly two decades of working at Kantar, world’s leading research, data and insight company, helming global position as innovation director to pursue his primary passion of producing and directing films and experimenting with different forms of audio visual art. In the past few years, he has donned several hats; establishing and managing Cherrypix Movies; India’s leading boutique production and post production studio, producing a spate of experimental fiction and non-fiction films and directing his own short films.
Total Budget € 150,000
Cherrypix Movies € 25,000
Black Mirror Films € 20,000
Funds to be raised € 105,000
Entering Kabul’s bird street is like stepping back in time a hundred years, to a corner of the city untouched by war or modernization. It is a narrow lane tucked away behind the an old Mosque, lined with stalls and booths selling birds by the dozen.
Afghanistan is a war zone country; but in this part of the city of Kabul, there is a different life and people deliberately ignore the war.
Hezbullah Sultani is young filmmaker from Afghanistan, who studied filmmaking at Fine Art Faculty- Kabul University. He made several short films which won awards and he helped many European filmmakers to shoot their films inside Afghanistan.
BIRDS STREET is his first feature documentary which is in style of observational mode.
Born in 1985, Sahraa Karimi is a film director, scriptwriter and producer. At the age of fifteen, she played as an actress in two Iranian films which brought her to study cinema in Slovakia and graduated with a PHD of directing. During these years, she has made more than 30 short fictions and documentaries, some of which won numerous awards in international film festivals. After 10 years of making many shorts and documentaries, she returned to Kabul. She made two documentaries there which were successful internationally and were broadcasted through ARTE France and BBC. HAVA, MARYAM, AYESHA is her first feature film ( director and producer) which was shot entirely in Kabul and had its officially was selected and had its world premier at Venice Film festival. BIRDS STREET is her first feature documentary as a producer and co-editor of the film.
Secured fund : (60 % in place , Afghan Films, Afghanistan)
Production Status: First version of the rough cut done
Expected release: December, 2021