Amina Nada doesn’t let herself be defined by her Arab heritage but she doesn’t shy away from it either. Her exemplary work as a film producer continually reinforces the idea to members of the American film community and the public that an artist like her is to be celebrated for the skill AND the perspective they bring. As the United States continues to recognize and embrace the contributions of foreign filmmakers, those like Ms. Nada exhibit an originality and an exceptionalism that enriches the entire industry. Her contributions to films such as Zafar and Awayy illustrate her ability to establish vastly different tones and emotions along with the directors with whom she collaborates.
Astonishingly, the tension that dissuades most is an element Amina finds attractive as she communicates, “The pressure placed upon a producer is incredible. You’re responsible for achieving everything smoothly and on time while making sure everyone is taken care of but, working with people who share that vision and working together to put something great out into the world for the audience; nothing is better! Working on Zafar and Awayy was so challenging but I would work with Aqsa and John [the directors] again at the drop of a hat.”
Zafar is a film about a man who has immigrated to the US and makes his income as a driver on ride sharing apps. This Vimeo Staff Pick premiered at Santa Barbra Film Festival and Seattle International Film Festival. Where so few films display an authentic perspective on the modern plights of immigrants in America, Zafar succeeds magnificently. Isolation, determination, and even heartbreak are communicated in the span of just a few hours. The determined spirit upon which the US prides itself has never been as pronounced as it is in this film and its main character portrayed so extraordinarily by Ismail Bashey (of the Primetime Emmy Award–winning Showtime series Homeland).
From legal restrictions of filming at a cash-back facility to possible shutdown due to exceeding permit restrictions for the underpass scene and others, Amina notes that Zafar’s most ominous challenge in her opinion was the fact that nearly all of the film takes place in a moving vehicle. She informs, “90 percent of the movie takes place in a moving car. It’s one of the most challenging locations to shoot in. We have to get a tow truck, secure special permits, and have escorts with us in the streets. God, oh God, sometimes getting your permit approved can be a doozy.
They love to keep us on our toes and leave us waiting until the last minute to sign our permits. But with an indie film like this with a tight budget we have to persevere. Especially in this case, when filming in a moving car which heavily affects your scheduling, which is a key element to making your day.”
The Sci-Fi categorization of Awayy comes not due to VFX and laser wielding extraterrestrials but in the concept that an unnatural occurrence leads to an alteration of reality as we know it. You don’t need to be a fan of the genre to enjoy Awayy as this is a film about relationships at its core.
Awarded Best Drama at Seriesfest (2022) and premiering at the prestigious SXSW film festival, this film stars Annelise Cepero (of Steven Spielberg’s Oscar Nominated West Side Story) as Ivy, a woman whose life is altered by a solar flare. Rebuking digital for the warm emotive aspects of 16MM, Awayy is a sentimental story which reminds audiences that connection with others is what drives the course of our lives.
Producer Amina Nada professes deep admiration for the production team and cast of this film but gives credit to her own natural instinct as well stating, “My Egyptian heritage came in and saved the day when I had to find a plane cockpit within budget for this film. The location was pivotal to the story and character so there was no way around it. I chatted up the hangar manager who happened to be Lebanese and he made an exception for us.”
Amina Nada is coveted by so many directors because she is committed to making their vision reality, whether its Science Fiction, Comedy, or even a documentary like Bryan Fogel’s BAFTA nominated The Dissident. Artist seek out expression, that’s as true for someone behind-the-scenes like Amina as for any marquee name in front of the camera.
Writer: Basil Thomson