V7: First off, congratulations on being accepted into Visions! How long have you been making films, and is this the first film festival you’ve been accepted to?
AR: I went to the University of Tampa and we had a few school-wide festivals, but this is the first one I’ve been accepted to and will attend outside of my university. I’ve been making videos since I was about 11.
V7: How did you come across the story of the Amal Women’s Training Center and Moroccan Restaurant? How did you get to go to Morocco?
AR: The documentary was for a class I took called Social Justice Communication. I found out about the trip and the plans for the documentary about 2 days before the deadline to apply and I knew I had to go. When we arrived in May, we knew we would be filming something related to the Amal Women’s Training Center and Moroccan Restaurant, but we didn’t have a story or subject. When we first arrived we met the staff and trainees, and it was rough because only about three of the staff spoke English. Some of the women were very uncomfortable around the camera but eventually we found Elhassania.
V7: How was it getting to know Elhassania? Are they the same in both public and private life?
AR: At first she was really scared -- literally the first day of filming it almost like she was trying to hide from us! It was tough at first but as the month went by we got to know her a little better. We had a translator, but near the end of the trip we would actually shoot without the translator just so our interactions didn’t feel processed, if that makes sense. In the end I think we got to see a very private side of her: her workplace, her routine. From what I hear she was so happy with the final project. All of the women were so overjoyed that their stories were told -- not exploited, just shared.
V7: How did you explain the time lapse and other artificial shots to Elhassania?
AR: We tried to explain it to her the effect of a time lapse -- it would be sped up, she wouldn’t just be standing there for ten minutes on screen -- but I don’t think she understood. Before shooting we all discussed the ethical side of artificiality. The scene of her putting her hijab on in the mirror, we explained to her that we just wanted to see her normal life.
V7: What was the most important lesson you learned while filming Solace in Amal?
AR:The whole trip was really life-changing. I mean experiencing the culture not as a tourist but as a filmmaker -- it felt like we were doing something important. The point of this documentary wasn’t to get a good grade or get a lot of views, it was to shed light on a culture that we often misunderstand or ignore. The importance of documentary is its impact not only on yourself but on the subject as well.