We had the good fortune of connecting with Omar Al Dakheel and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Omar, how do you think about risk?
I think the biggest risk is not taking risks at all then regretting it. The best decisions in my life was coming to the US at 17 to go to college and become a filmmaker on my own and it was a big risk. Someone once says you’re life today is the decisions you made for yourself 3-5 years ago and I totally agree with that. The way I see it is this, a lot of times we have fears inside our heads when we’re about to take a risky decision, let’s say tackle a certain controversial topic in a film, but the truth is these fears are imaginary, they’re not real, and taking the risk may actually result in fruitful outcome. In my career I did a documentary called “al imam” which follows a controversial and rare woman imam and I was hesitant to make it due to sensitivity of the subject matter and the risky consequences it may cause, but I’m glad that I did it and it went far beyond my exception circulating tons of international festivals for several years, winning awards and getting destitution by National Geographic, PBS and Vimeo Staff pick and is still being shown in different places like colleges and classrooms today where I attend Q&A session and engage in constructive conversations with different kind of audiences. I did the same thing with my fiction film “Ablution” and took the risk of tackling the thorny the topic of LGBT in Islam and how the bond between a disabled father and his son is tested when love is pitted against religion. The film went on to go to more than 70 International film festivals and win several awards. I tend to continuo taking risks in my career because I believe in the work I do and the questions I’m raising. When we look at any change in history it’s because someone took a risk, and I want to do that even if it’s just by starting a conversation through art.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’m a film director, I have worked both in fiction and in documentary. I like to direct documentaries in verite style that look like fiction, and direct fiction based on truth and reality that look like documentaries. I’m excited and nervous at the same time about any new projects, because I really care, and most of the projects I pick are around big questions that I want to answer and in doing so I hope to tell stories that bridge the gap between the east and west, between religions and cultures. Through a lot of trial and error and being persistent in the face of tons of rejections is why I am here today, in LA pursuing my dream of being a film director and that’s a constant struggle. My challenge is trying to tell stories marginalized individuals in society like myself and have them them be the front and center of the story while at the same time be relatable to everyone and also commercially appealing. It’s never easy, but it’s worth it, it’s worth it when you connect to another human being from a completely different background just by connecting on the human level, and that is powerful. I’m a passionate person, only do what love, and I’ve always been curious, life a mystery and raising questions in order to comprehend it just a little bit, can be very fulfilling task.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Day 1 I would take them to swim or surf atLA’s beautiful beaches in Venice, Santa Monica or Manhattan Beach. Day 2 I would take them to hikes and let them see our beautiful city like Griffith Park to Runyon Canyon. Day 3 I would show them around hollywood and take them to the movies Egyptian and Chinese Theatre, or roof top screenings. Day 4 I show them shopping at the Americana, The Grove, Century City Westfield Mall or Rodeo drive or outlets like Citadel Outlet. Day 5 I would take them to museums at LACMA, or the Getty Villa or Museum. Day 6 I would take them to big event or a conversation or show at the Hollywood bowl or Rose bowl or a game at the Dodger Stadium or Lakers. Day 7 I would take them with me in my daily activity as a local and hang out with friends and chill. As for food or drinks there are just too many options, but the best way to funnel the options down is I think going through yelp in wherever we are in the locations above and go with the ones that are local and with most and best reviews and based on my friends’ dietary restrictions.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would give shout out to my alma mater, the USC School of Cinematic Arts, my colleagues and professors. Especially, Professor Helaine Head who admitted me to school learned a lot from her especially in directing, Professor Amanda Pope who taught me documentary directing, Professor Irving Belateche who taught me writing and finally Professor Jeremy Kagan who taught a lot of things both in directing and acting.
Other: Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/user10470238