Nasser Samara is an up-and-coming young Arab-Latino director. His first film, a short entitled Temporary, was part of the 2016 lineup at the Arab Film Festival and was also featured at the New York Film & TV Festival and the Los Angeles Film Festival Awards. Temporary is a highly relatable film that deals with themes such as identity, friendship and the always difficult task of finding career success. Now that he’s done with the festival circuit, Nasser has decided to take his film in a different direction and turn it into a 7-episode web series. The first two episodes will be available on YouTube on Thursday, February 23rd.
I sat down to talk to Nasser about the complexities of Temporary, the transition from short film to web series and how he turned his love of films into his career.
Arab Film Festival: Tell us about your short film, soon to turn web series, Temporary. How did you come up with the story? Does it draw from your own life at all?
Nasser Samara: Temporary is a comedy examining the complexities of identity. The story centers on Malik, an uncomfortable and unsuccessful young actor who is forced to come to terms with his deep rooted insecurities.
I wrote Temporary during a time where I was also grappling with my own issues of identity. However, the story is entirely fictional. I was not writing my personal experiences or showing scenes I first hand encountered. Where Temporary does draw upon my life are in the similarities of the main character Malik. We both share the same Palestinian Mexican heritage but unlike Malik, I celebrate my identities. Which is how I came up with the story, by asking myself a lot of hard questions. What would happen if I weren’t comfortable with myself? What if I was not proud of my culture? What if no one understood me? What if I didn’t understand me? This is where Malik and I are similar but different. Both of us want to be seen and heard, Malik just doesn’t even know where to begin.
AFF: What first drew you to filmmaking?
NS: I was drawn to filmmaking first and foremost from a pure love of cinema. There was never one specific movie or film genre that started it all because I loved everything. Animated films, musicals, science fiction, comedies, foreign cinema, literally everything. My knowledge of film began to increasingly grow encyclopedic to where I would even get into arguments with Blockbuster employees about movie facts and trivia.
As I got older, while I still watched movies, I never really thought it was a possibility I could make them. In college I ended up majoring in Anthropology and Women’s Studies, eventually graduating from UCLA. Strangely, Anthropology and Feminism taught me a lot about filmmaking and reignited my love affair with film. I was essentially studying the human condition, which in turn made me more empathetic, which is generally the type of films I am interested in making.
AFF: You also star in Temporary as the main character, Malik. Why did you decide to both act and direct? Was it difficult to juggle both roles?
NS: It really was never a discussion on who else would play Malik. The film was shot in only 8 days and it was role I knew I could play effectively within our limited schedule. The process of directing and acting was surprisingly smoother than I anticipated. It was by no means easy, but I ended up being so much more concerned with the comedic style and tone, I had to just trust I would deliver a good performance.
AFF: What made you decide to develop Temporary into a web series?
NS: I always planned on eventually releasing the film online, I just wasn’t sure when. And then Trump became President and I thought, now is the time. There is currently so much uncertainty and division in our country and throughout the world; I thought it would be important to see a character affected by the realities of what it means to be a minority in America. Laughter is the best medicine, and hopefully the character of Malik can push people towards love and acceptance. So when I decided to release Temporary online, my editor Hala Alsalman and I looked at the film and thought it would be more interesting to cut up the narrative into seven episodes. There are a lot of themes explored in the film and on some level, this new way we are presenting Temporary makes the themes easier to digest and maybe even more impactful.
AFF: Where and when will the Temporary web series be available to watch?
NS: The first two episodes will be available on YouTube on Thursday, February 23rd
AFF: What advice would you give to other struggling young artists like Malik?
NS: Never be crippled by fear or doubt. I was once so afraid to make art, which in turn only hurt myself. I was so angry about the representation of Arabs, Muslims, Latinos, and Queer People of Color, I would sometimes think, ”If there was barely room for them, why would there be room for me? Why would they let me in?” I realized and understood no one was ever going to let me in. Which is fine, because I am going to let myself in. I am going to break down that damn door and make myself so visible, so loud, and so clear, I will force people to pay attention. I will not only tell my story, but I will tell the stories of other unsung minorities. My advice to any struggling artist is to do the same. Keep pushing that door until it breaks.