At the Stockholm Film Festival year 2000 there was a rumour circulating. That there was a film that made people faint or leave in the middle of the screening. ”Subconscious Cruelty” was an artistic, nightmarish and truly uncompromizing film with images hard to shake off. No one was untouched by it. A few years later, I saw ”Ascension”, another film loaded with symbolic imagery. The beautiful and horrifying scene of two women running over a field was my inspiration when I made my own short, ”Skifte”.
These days, Karim Hussain is more frequent as a Director of Photography with Close to thirty titles under the belt. With films like ”Antiviral”, ”We are still here” and ”Hannibal” (TV-serial) and others, Karim Hussain continues to impress and fascinate me. I asked him a few questions.
Kring milleniumskiftet florerade rykten om en film som visats på Stockholms Filmfestival. Det viskades att folk antingen svimmade eller lämnade biosalongen. ”Subconscious Cruelty” var konstnärlig, mardrömslik och en totalt kompromisslös film med bilder som var svåra att skaka av sig. Ingen lämnades oberörd. Några år senare såg jag ”Ascension”, återigen en film med ett symbolladdat bildspråk. Den vackra och fruktansvärda scenen med två kvinnor som springer över ett fält var en direkt inspirationskälla när jag själv gjorde kortfilmen ”Skifte”. Numera är Karim ett frekvent namn som fotograf med närmare trettio filmer bakom sig. Med ”Antiviral”, ”We are still here” och ”Hannibal (tv-serie)” med flera, fortsätter Karim Hussain att imponera och fascinera mig. Jag ställde några frågor till honom.
KARIM HUSSAIN – Director of photography
JDB: Who is Karim Hussain?
KH: I’m a cinematographer who occasionally directed some movies and wrote some. I specialize in genre cinema, my passion, and do my best to bring new ideas to a movie when I can.
JDB: What frightened you as a child?
KH: Humanity. Still does the most today. But humanity is also beautiful occasionally, which makes for the most interesting paradox.
JDB: Can you tell us a little about your work on the film ”We are still here”, that is a hot topic here in Sweden right now?
KH: We Are Still Here was a fun opportunity to work with friends on a project where we could do a humble little horror movie that added a couple twists to a classic formula. The budget was quite low, but it was fun, coming off larger, more heavy projects to get back to independent filmmaking basics and do a humble horror movie that was designed to be a crowd pleaser, on a not dumbed-down level. Was amazing to work with that cast, as well, made some fantastic friends on it. Also got to work with the new at the time Red Dragon camera, which produced a lovely image, despite the camera body having some functionality issues. Used some fun older, vintage lenses too, to give it a certain nostalgic look.
JDB: Describe an ordinary day in Karim Hussain’s life.
KH: Depends of the day. I am currently shooting a movie, so the other day we filmed a naked girl trapped in a wall while her feet were soaked in a pool of dead rats. You know, another day at the office.
JDB: Any future plans you want to share?
KH: I am currently shooting a movie called Madame Hollywood for director Olivier Abbou, with whom I shot a movie called Territories and a TV movie made in South Africa called Yes We Can. This one is an English-language re-make of Olivier’s first movie, a mini-series made in France in 2007. This time it’s quite a radically different take on the first one, the 2nd half is completely different and it looks completely different as well. We’re mixing many different formats and techniques on it, but the main cameras are Red Dragons, shooting on vintage lenses, a set of Canon K35s. The look is pretty radical and we’re using an unusual filter technique that I’ll reveal closer to the movie’s release. It’s being done for Canal Plus and their new on-line original content streaming service, a bit like their own Netflix.
There are many exciting projects for next year, with great friends and directors whom I have already worked with in the past, but too early to talk about any of them.
JDB: Will you write and direct again soon?
KH: I have no immediate plans and am completely happy just as a Director Of Photography. You never know, though… It’s the financing part I can’t stand, I was tired of always begging for money and pitching to no avail, so that really made me wish to excel more in cinematography, which was always my favourite part of the process.
JDB: Which classic horror movie do you wish that you had been directing?
KH: Who knows, there’s so many great ones out there. I’d guess something like Gerald Kargl’s Angst or of course The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, or Opera, Suspiria, things like that… But I’m glad I didn’t direct them, because I can happily watch them as a fan.
JDB: Name a film or book that really scared you!
KH: Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s a pretty scary one. As for books, I thought Brett Easton Ellis’s Lunar Park was pretty outstanding, except for maybe the ending.
JDB: What makes you hide under the covers?
KH: The cold.
JDB: What secrets are you hiding in your closet?
KH: I’m a pretty open book, I don’t like having secrets.
JDB: Scariest place you have ever been?
KH: Probably the Cole Harbour abandoned mental hospital where we shot Hobo With A Shotgun. You could really feel the ghosts and bad energy trapped in the shell of the building. Some places in the Pyranees in the South Of France, that I’ve visited with Richard Stanley definitely had an otherworldly presence, especially a damned church we shot in for The Otherworld, that didn’t make the final cut.
JDB: Favourite monster?
KH: Human beings.
JDB: And last but not least, if you would say something kind, what would it be?
KH: I try to say something kind as much as I can, as I think encouragement moves people to do great things, as silly and obvious as that might sound! I’m an optimist who likes to have fun! That doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate the negative things in life. Believe me, I do, like a fine wine.