Interviews

Behind the scenes of UAE production A Tale of Shadows 2: Illusions with Robert Cristian Trif

A Tale of Shadows: Illusions is the sequel to Emirati writer and director Tariq Al Kazim’s debut film A Tale of Shadows. Shot within prime locations in the UAE, the film features an internationally diverse cast. Nigerian actor, Chuka Ekweogwu returns to the franchise as the stranger, while German actress, Arzu Neuwirth chills audiences with her role as the woman in white. Swedish actor, Almer Agmyren portrays the film’s mysterious figure and the film sequel welcomes a newcomer, Romanian Robert Cristian Trif, to play the role of a farmer.

Ahead of the release of A Tale of Shadows: Illusions early next year, Romanian talent Trif shares highlights of his filmmaking experience as actor, scriptwriter and co-producer, with BroadcastPro ME.

When did you realize your passion for cinema and when did you decide to take it up professionally?

During my childhood, I used to do theatre plays and I always felt passionate about film and theatre. It wasn’t until I went through a dark period of my life that I realized that this is what I want to do and it’s something I want to pursue professionally.

How has your experience been working on A Tale of Shadows: Illusions?

When we met about the film, I realized that the director Tariq Al Kazim and I had similar ideas on how we want to start this project. And because we knew each other it was easy to work together. When he proposed that I should be the co-producer as well, I said yes. Seeing my work as an integral part of a unified project is a very useful experience. The positive energy and excitement that everyone is putting into their work during the whole process and different stages of this film enriches the entire filmmaking experience.

You’ve worn several hats of actor, producer, and scriptwriter – which has been the most challenging and which the most rewarding, why?

As an actor, I go to extremes to play a character exactly how I want to portray him. It’s emotionally draining, but it all worked out in the end. In the beginning, I said that Before Suicide was the most demanding film until I filmed Karma, a film that I am very passionate about because it’s based on a real-life story reflects some of the moments of my life. I consider myself an actor that has an additional talent for storytelling. My greatest satisfaction is when I see that my films can make a difference in society and can help people. This is for me the most rewarding and beautiful thing.

Tell us about the ideation period of the scriptwriting process.

It’s interesting because until I was 35, I was never interested in writing. It all came together when I started studying acting that I started to write a story. After writing three films and showing the scripts to several close people who were from the film industry, I realized that I have a real talent worth pursuing. It’s very easy for me to interpret a role because if I write the story of the film, I also know what type of character is suitable for me. My inspiration comes from real-life experiences. I am a big fan of real stories because I want to pass a message that can help others. I seek to write something that can help humanity in some way. For example, when I wrote Before Suicide, I wanted people to understand the fact that there is always hope and to not give up because there is always a solution to everything in life. Karma is a story that can help others understand their actions better.

Why is A Tale of Shadows: Illusions relevant today?

A Tale of Shadows refers to the shadows. It refers to the memories of the people who once lived in the past present and the future. Illusions refers to the capabilities of one villain who can create illusions that mess with the main character’s mind. It’s a type of film that you don’t normally see made in this region. Most filmmakers today are making different genres of films. I liked Tariq Al Kazim’s courage of breaking the barriers in terms of this kind of the story of a fantasy world and imaginary illusion.

According to you, what is the most riveting aspect of the story’s plot?

The fact that the main villain who is a monster in the film is immortal makes it difficult for the main characters to survive

How do you know when your story’s finished and when to walk away?

You always must give a reason for your characters to finish the story the way you perceive it from the beginning. If I write a film that I think can go on to be a sequel than I try to use the end to showcase it in such a way that the audiences will understand that there is a continuity of the story from there. But if I write a film where the main character dies at the end, then the end is very much abrupt. I don’t see what else to continue from there. It’s done. It stops there. I try to find new ways to break an audience’s expectation of the film.

What are the key UAE locations in the film? How crucial is the role of these settings in the overall plot?

The location is very important because it portrays an abandoned farm and it gives that feeling of horror, mystery and darkness.

How does this film stand out from others in the horror genre?

Today’s audiences have been inundated with so many horror films that people are more educated in the language of filmmaking than they used to be before. For this reason, I feel this film can have a big impact on the audiences here because it’s a twisted type of story. You have horror, but you also have fantasy and drama in it, making the film interesting to watch. And it’s the kind of films people like to watch today.

Tell us about the casting of the film, how has your experience been working alongside different talents?

It’s a real challenge to find the right actors for this film in this part of the world. Not only because of the way Tariq wants to tell the story and the way he builds the characters of the film in a very specific way, but also because of the main challenge of finding the right actors for this type of film. You always must find options from outside and it’s exactly what we did for this film. We tried to bring in the best talents from across the globe.

What can you tell us about your character in the film? Do you play the protagonist?

I play the farmer in A Tale of Shadows: Illusions. The farmer is the point of contact of what is going on the farm. He is a type of person who is very quiet and is observant of everything happening in the farm. If there is a murder on the the farm, he knows all about it, but he can’t disclose this information as he is grappled with the fear of losing his job.

Given your background working in the UAE film industry, how has it evolved and what are the biggest hurdles facing local filmmakers within the region?

In my opinion, the industry has very good potential, but if you remove the restrictions here, then the industry can really soar. I am happy to see more and more platforms coming up for theatre and for film because this is helpful. By adding more competition, the quality of films will improve as will the motivation for filmmakers to create more dynamic work.

What do you hope audiences take away after watching A Tale of Shadows: Illusions?

Unfortunately, there is not a definitive formula for having success in films. It’s a unique and very personal process between the creator and the subject. I know for sure that the director Tariq wants something that moves people, something that makes the audience think, cry, and dream. I truly hope people will enjoy this world of chaos and illusions that Tariq has created.

 A Tale of Shadows 2: Illusions is scheduled for release in February 2020.