The Wheelchair and the Trap - Conversation with Bilal Hussein
By: Hooman Razavi
Danish cinema may be not as represented in festivals as other European national cinema, especially its short film productions. The interview and review of "The Wheelchair and the Trap" provided the opportunity to ask Bilal Hussein, who is one of the emerging young director of that cinema to share more on his last short feature, working industry and his future projects. In the interview, Bilal explains the origin of film's idea, the connection to his personal life, process of making the film, his cinematic inspirations and what lies ahead. For those who are interested you can read the review in our site and check the Facebook link "Jessica-Part 2" shared.
Hooman Razavi, Phoenix Journal (PJ): How did the idea of short film come about? Is it based on a real story? Bilal Hussein (BH): I wanted to become a policeman but due to a genetic disease (“AAA Syndrome”) it is not possible. It’s a physical disability; it means that my muscles are not strong to let my walk more then fifty yards. My system of producing “Hydrocortisone” is not operating normally and “Hydrocortisone” is responsible for information flow in our body. So, It is lifesaving requirement to have “Hydrocortisone”. Therefor I am taking “Hydrocortisone” orally three times a day. My oesophagus is blocked; when I eat the food goes slowly down due to gravity. Because of this, I also use a wheelchair when I have to travel for a long period of time. I work at a television station “Tv-Glad Esbjerg” as a reporter, anchor, and cameraman, segment editor and film reviewer, it is the first television station for normal and disable people in Denmark and in the world. I have colleagues and few friends who sit in a wheelchair 24/7 a day and I wanted to show how difficult it is sitting in it when you love your work and when your bound to it. No, it is not based on any true story. It’s pure fiction. (PJ): How is this short film related to your other six short films? (BH): It has no relation to the other six short films it’s a whole new storyline, which was difficult to write because I wanted to do something different. I want people to relate to the stuff, which goes in our everyday life. For instance, “Michelle Pedersen” played by “Theresa SøvigPoulsen” who doesn’t have a good relationship with her mother played by “Yvonne Andersen”. For instance, I am very close to my family and not all households are like that. My family supports me every time, because of that and my father “Dil Muhammad Akbar Hussain”, especially is always on my side and helps me. So I am very thankful to him and my family for the person I am today making all these films. Also, if I wasn’t at the television or if I hadn’t taken a media education at “Tv-Glad Esbjerg” school “Glad Fagskole Esbjerg” I wouldn’t have been able to produce six short films or have any kind of learning it the field. (PJ): How the cast was selected? Were the intention to allow new budding stars to be introduced to the Danish cinema? (BH): Some of the actors and actresses like “Yvonne Andersen” (Mom), “Theresa SøvigPoulsen” (“Michelle Pedersen”), “Edwin Barandarou” (Farhad Kazami”), “Maria Brinks Arianfar” (“Roya Rostami”), I have worked with before; I was trying to find others and I had sent many mails back and fourth to fit the characters I was looking for. But then I knew “Yvonne Andersen” who has a great network and knows many young and old actors and actresses because she is well known in the Danish film industry. I asked her if she knew anyone who would be interested in the roles I was looking for. I was then introduced to “Jimmi Andersen” (“Nick Wolff”), “Christina Deleuran” (Mie Jørgensen) and “Youssef Halabi Agerbo” (Ali Nizar) who brought great life to their roles and it was such a joy to work with everyone. All my six short films are produced voluntarily and non-profitably. In August 2021, I will have ten years anniversary as an independent short filmmaker. With this, I have also a greater network to find actors as well. Many of my actors are doing well in getting other projects, they are good actors with a lot of potential. (PJ): The crime and betrayal theme are embedded into the short film. What was your strategy to depict these themes realistically and aesthetically pleasing? (BH): My strategy was to write a strong storyline, which is realistic and relatable. In a crime-fiction or any kind of story, I believe it needs to have more then two elements to be interesting. I love crime-fiction, drama, romantic-dramas and etc. Every film has a road where the main characters have a point they need to go to and fill the holes to get to there goals. If a film has only one element in the storyline it will be very boring. For instance, someone told me in my network, that there is a lot of smoking, drinking and offensive langue in my fifth film “Esbjerg: Crime Family”. My reply was that it is part of the storyline to make the movie realistic. It is a difficult task to create a strong main character and plot. I see a lot of movies and series, I also self study old films to get ideas and see what I can to differently. I am a big fan of many high level directors like “Martin Scorsese”, “Tony Scott”, “Christopher Nolan”, “Michael Bay” and many more. But I think “The Wheelchair And The Trap” is very real and I am very happy people like it very much. (PJ): There seems to be an immigrant subtext to the film. Did you try to portray the main characters based on this background-such as Farhad and Ali? (BH): I thought it would be interesting to have at least two characters other then Danish decent, I searched for names on the internet for Iranian and Arabic names. From there I found the names, which I thought were good. I tried to build them as realistic as I could and I think I have. But audience can judge them as they like. (PJ): The other theme of connection, especially family bonding was evident too? Was it to leave it for the audience to make its own judgement regarding its relation to the crime theme and its inherent tension? (BH): Over the years producing short films I have learned that it’s good to keep audience thinking what will happen or what is going to happen. So, yes I want the audience to judge what is right in the relationship and what is wrong. This film is not about revenge it’s more on what happens where you’re bound to a wheelchair. But I created this theme with different elements to see what people think. When I had a closed primer in the cinema for my family and friends they were very shocked that why it ended that why and many are asking for a part two. I don’t want to ruin this story by producing a part two, because it doesn’t have to be made. Sometimes it’s better guessing things. (PJ): Detective Michelle character was portrayed as naive but resolute. She finally recovered the injury. Could this be read as a typical female heroine character with feminist undertone to it? (BH): I believe in strong characters, doesn’t matter which sex they are from. (PJ): The ending was somewhat open-ended. Was there any implication that in situations such as this there could be any finale? (BH): I have thought about a finale part but I don’t know because sometimes its just best to leave the film open for the audience to judge.
(PJ): Can you share with your audience on your future projects? (BH): Yes I am in postproduction of continues part of my “Jessica” (2017) universe. It’s titled “Jessica: Part Two”, where we follow the main character as she concentrates on her job as an anchor and reporter and doesn’t want to have any kind of relationship but there is a plot twist. I have also made some notes for my first feature film, which right now has a working title “Where Did The Love Go”, it’s a theme like “Criminal Minds” (2005 – 2020) and joker (2020) where the lead character is a psychopath where we see what triggers him to become from a normal person to a completely mad man.
Here is the link to “Jessica: Part Two” https://www.facebook.com/Jessica.DelTo2020 Here is a test cover of “Where Did The Love Go”. Photographer Bilal Hussain