Amaal Mustafa directs ‘mother/land’.
A forgotten letter brings to light the complicated relationship between a mother and son.
Words from Amaal below.
What discoveries did you make making ‘mother/land’?
In terms of self-discovery, I learned a lot about ways to channel my thoughts in a cinematic way. At the time, I felt frustrated about the US and its internal treatment of immigrants and I felt creatively stifled about not lensing as many projects as I would have liked to after quarantine was over in NYC. I approached the former of these feelings as a means to writing a piece that could hopefully express that stateless antipathy, anger, and universal confusion in conjunction with the latter feeling to attempt to express it through the language of the camera.
In terms of self-discovery, I learned a lot about ways to channel my thoughts in a cinematic way.
What creative aspect of the project required the most attention?
Interestingly enough, the ‘poem’ (the letter overheard in the voiceover) was the one that required the most attention. I wanted to make sure to take care with how I communicated specific ideas, and that it had the voice required to make the project work, specifically the point of view of an estranged son sending this letter to his mother, while also maintaining some sense of ‘poetry’ (if I can be so bold to call it that), in terms of the larger concepts of the motherland, rejection and the individual’s relationship with community.
Then, my good friend Jesús Muñiz worked on the complicated task of translating the letter to Spanish, and I think he did a beautiful interpretation. He asked me questions such as how much slang to incorporate versus informal and formal language, and gave me options on translations of lines so I could think about the flow and different tonalities used.
I should add, I’m now even more appreciative of all the great directors I’ve had the privilege of working with; what a stressful lifestyle!
Can you talk about your choice to direct, as well as DOP on this project?
As a cinematographer first and foremost, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to direct for the first time. But I had this inescapable urge to commit myself to put together the kinds of images I had in my head into a short project. This admittedly unhinged feeling wouldn’t have been possible without the confidence I had in my amazingly talented friends and collaborators who I knew could only make this project better. I should add, I’m now even more appreciative of all the great directors I’ve had the privilege of working with; what a stressful lifestyle!
What are you reading at the moment?
I’m currently reading ‘On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous’ by Ocean Vuong and a few Texas Hold’em strategy books.
- Director of Photography