The debut feature film by Tunisian director Leyla Bouzid – As I Open My Eyes (À peine j’ouvre les yeux / على حلّة عيني) – has been officially selected to receive its world premier at this year’s Venice Days as part of the 72nd Venice International Film Festival (2 – 12 September) and its North American premier at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival (10 – 20 September).
The film features original music by Iraqi multi-instrumentalist and composer Khyam Allami, whose contribution also marks his debut feature length film soundtrack.
As I Open My Eyes tells the story of 18-year-old Farah (played by Baya Medhaffer), who sings in an alternative-rock band called Joujma, and her coming of age in pre-revolutionary Tunisia against the will of her mother Hayet (played by Tunisian songstress Ghalia Benali).
The five-piece band of non-professional actors-musicians features Baya Medhaffer as Farah (vocals), Montasser Ayari as Borhene (oud), Deena Abdelwahed as Ines (keys & electronics), and the brothers Marwen Soltana as Sami (bass) and Youssef Soltana as Ska (drums).
Working closely from the early stages of casting and pre-production through to the final sound mixing of the film, Allami and Bouzid aimed to develop a new and youthful sound for the band, informed by Tunisian folk music such as the vocal driven songs from the city of El Kef, and inspired by artists such as Patti Smith, PJ Harvey and the female leads in alternative rock bands such as Sonic Youth and Stereolab.
Allami also spent much time with Medhaffer, who makes her acting and singing debut, to help her find her voice, all the while seeking inspiration to compose the songs based on her abilities and the nuances of her adolescent character. Teaching the band the songs by rote, Allami tried to keep a balance between their musicality and a natural yet amateur edge to their performance.
The lyrics for the band’s songs were written by Tunisian writer Ghassan Amami in colloquial Tunisian Arabic, based on the film’s narrative and dramatic context. Allami, who composed, arranged and produced the songs, alongside the Oud-based incidental music, used the lyrics as a catalyst to heighten their latent symbolism alongside their social, cultural and political referencing, whilst serving the dynamic trajectory of the film’s plot.
The songs in the film are performed live by the band, all of whom make their acting debuts. They were then recorded in a music studio to form part of a soundtrack album to be released in early 2016.
For more information about Khyam Allami contact Sarah El Miniawy Hefni | Simsara | firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to Editors
About Khyam Allami
http://www.khyamallami.com | soundcloud.com/khyamallami | youtube.com/user/khyamallami
Virtuoso oud player, serial collaborator and musical explorer. Khyam Allami is a musician and composer with a formidable – and continually growing – international reputation.
Born in Damascus in 1981 to Iraqi parents and raised in London from the age of 9, Allami grew up playing the violin, moving on to piano, guitar, bass and finally settling on the drums in his teens. He quickly developed a reputation as one of London’s most hard-hitting and original drummers playing metal, post-rock and progressive rock in the bands Art of Burning Water, Ursa and Knifeworld.
In 2004 he made another sharp turn and took up the Oud – now his principal instrument. Despite only taking up one of the Arab world’s most popular instruments in his early twenties, Allami rapidly became a performer of international renown. His remarkably assured 2011 debut solo Oud album Resonance/Dissonance was widely critically praised and nominated for the Songlines Music Awards 2012.
Energetic and charismatic, Allami has developed numerous and varied performance and recording projects since his debut album release; from co-founding the alternative Arabic group Alif, performing with Blur at London’s Olympics celebrations in Hyde Park and working with the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq, to playing drums with Tamer Abu Ghazaleh, mixing Maurice Louca’s Benhayyi Al-Baghbaghan and launching his own independent record label Nawa Recordings.
In 2012 he worked with Scottish theatre director Anthony Nielsen on Royal Shakespeare Company’s revival of Peter Weisse’s Marat/Sade for its 50th anniversary, composing and re-setting all the original song texts to new music. In 2014 he composed and performed the solo Oud soundtrack for the short film Free Range by Lebanese director Bassem Breich.
Allami has recently completed his first feature length film soundtrack for As I Open My Eyes, the debut feature film by Tunisian director Leyla Bouzid, whilst preparing for the release of Alif’s debut album Aynama-Rtama and working on a new solo album, all of which are due for release in 2015/2016.
About Leyla Bouzid
Leyla Bouzid grew up in Tunis where she was born in 1984. In 2003 she went to Paris to study French literature at the Sorbonne university and then entered the film direction department at La Fémis (École Nationale Supérieure des Métiers de l’Image et du Son).
She directed her first short Soubresauts (Mkhobbi Fi Kobba), her graduation film in Tunisia a few months before the revolution. She then chose to direct Zakaria in the south of France with non-professional actors. These two short films received a very warm welcome in festivals in France and abroad, with more than sixty selections and a dozen awards.
As I Open My Eyes is her first feature film.