A piece about Dead Sands by the writer himself
For the longest time, I have worried that this day will come. Over the last year or so, it was my privilege and pleasure to share with you all my thoughts, critiques, and sometimes questionable opinions about film and the overall wonderful world of cinema. In doing so, I have experienced both some of the best features that Hollywood had to offer over the last year as well as some of the most miserable offerings I’ve ever seen in my life. I was also fortunate enough to be given a considerable amount of leeway by my boss and friend Mehr Jan who gives more time and effort to running this paper then any editor I have ever met in my life. For the most part, she left the weekly reviews to my discretion, which is why my first official review was for that of Tommy Wiseau’s The Room (the fact that I remained onboard after that remains a mystery that alludes me to this very day) However, this week come with a proposal that I’ve long feared was on the way. One that had been the most requested film I’ve been asked by my readers and followers to do a review on. For the first time, I’ll be on the receiving end of my own criticism as this feature just happens to have my name on the marquee.
Written by yours truly, Dead Sands is Bahrain’s first and only foray into the zombie comedy sub-genre (and for good reason) and tells the story of a hapless motley crew of horror clichés who come together in the onset of a sparsely attended undead uprising sweeping the island. Together, they must overcome random plot holes, illogical character progression, and the occasional zombie cameo appearances in their attempt to find an escape. As you can see, I don’t shy away from calling a spade a spade; yes, for all intents and purposes, Dead Sands did unfortunately suck the big one. The sad part though is that it didn’t have to. In lieu of a traditional review, I will focus my piece this week on highlighting the problems with Dead Sands and the lessons learned from it.
If there’s one way to describe Dead Sands, that would be to classify it as a cautionary tale. It wasn’t supposed to be this way of course, in fact it was born as a passion project by a group of friends who shared a love for film and wanted to showcase that on the big screen. But even things built on good intentions will suffer if they stand on weak foundation, and while we had our hearts in the right place, we simply lacked the expertise to carry through a full on feature film. This is not meant as a slight against anyone as the people involved were and are talented, it’s just that we were trying to fly high before we ever tried walking on two. Add to that a growing sense of importance and an inflated ego which I am guilty of and you can see that we’re off to a rocky start. Another thing that I am guilty of is the script. While I do believe that the original concept could work, the shooting script was simply a mess. Instead of going with a grounded approach which was initially the idea, I had let my ego get the better of me and instead developed, over eighteen drafts, something that would’ve raised eyebrows on a Romero set much less one that involved many first time filmmakers. As a result, many scenes had to be scaled down & modified, much of that while dealing with time constraints, which is why the narrative came off as choppy on the big screen. For that I take full responsibility.
All that considered though, I still can’t bring myself to hate Dead Sands. It is a crappy movie by all means, but despite that it’s still something that I sunk eighteen months of my life on, that makes it hard to disdain it. I do think that there were also some positives from the film; the soundtrack was top notch and I am proud that it highlighted local bands in that way. Some of our cast members also went on to bigger and better things; Miraya Varma has seen some success in Bollywood, Mohammed Junaid is an active actor who has made appearances in shows like Suits & Designated Survivor, and Heba Hashem and Mahdi Rafea (who’s audition was so good I ended up writing a character specifically for him) are killing it both on stage and on television. I’ve also wound up making some lifelong friends as a result, to the point that my week is not complete if I miss out on my weekly movie night in Saar Cineplex (FOREVER!!!) with Abdulwahab and Wolfie. Yes, Dead Sands is a cautionary tale, but in an odd way, it is also an inspiration of sorts. Think about it this way; a group of kids with little to no prior filmmaking experience were, against all odds, able to not only produce a feature length film but have it screened nationwide. The quality was, is, and will always be in question but the ambition will not.
In the end, I have made my peace with this film. I may not embellish it like I once did but I’m not hiding or shying away from it either. It is what it is and you never know; maybe someday it’ll even receive the Tommy Wiseau treatment.
The Five: Favorite Bahraini Productions
- A Bahraini Tale
- Four Girls
- Bait Aldjinn
- The Rooster