Journey into the heart of "Saleem" with Cynthia Madanat Sharaiha

“Saleem" - A tale of resilience and healing

Saleem Still3
(Photos: Saleem)
In an exclusive interview with Jordan News, director Cynthia Madanat Sharaiha provided insights into the inspiration and central themes of her groundbreaking film "Saleem." It delves into the poignant tale of a nine-year-old boy navigating the aftermath of war, displacement, and trauma.اضافة اعلان

Showcased at Taj Cinema recently, “Saleem” unfolds as the titular character embarks on a treasure hunt with friends, unearthing not only hidden treasures but also profound insights into resilience, redemption, and the enduring human spirit. The film goes beyond the surface, addressing the profound impact of trauma on children. The narrative sensitively explores Saleem's internal turmoil, depicting the emotional scars left by war and loss. Shariha aims to foster a dialogue about children's mental health, shedding light on the challenges they encounter and the support they require.

The film, while primarily tailored for a younger audience, adopts a didactic approach. It seamlessly weaves a fairy-tale narrative, following Saleem and his friends on a treasure hunt that symbolizes their journey of self-discovery. The inclusion of various stories and elements, though at times overwhelming, enhances the didactic aspect, delivering essential messages about resilience and heroism.

"Saleem" emerges as a hopeful endeavor in Jordanian cinema, as Shariha fearlessly incorporates dire comments into the narrative, making it compelling for both younger and mature audiences. The film's rawness, coupled with its didactic elements, adds depth to the storytelling, portraying a balance between entertainment and addressing serious issues.

“Saleem” stars a talented ensemble cast including Refaat Al Najjar, Dawood Afishaat, Osama Harhashi, Zaid Sharaiha, Salma Sharaiha, Mohammed Mojahed, Dolly Dib, Laith Naqawah, Walaa Khawaldeh, Nidal Majdalawieh, Haya Sharaiha, and Bana Naser, creating a rich tapestry of characters. With stellar performances and a diverse cast, "Saleem" weaves a compelling narrative that explores themes of trauma, resilience, and the enduring human spirit.

Production journey
Reflecting on her evolution since the award-winning short film "Noor" in 2016, Shariha highlighted her collaborative directorial style. Emphasizing teamwork, she noted the transition from short films to a feature film as a significant step, crediting her team's leadership and the support of her husband, executive producer Shadi Sharaiha.

Shariha shared her approach to directing "Saleem," emphasizing the importance of conveying emotions surrounding grief without resorting to clichés. As a 3D animation feature, the film carefully employed facial expressions, character design, and voice acting to capture the intended emotions. Notably, Shariha and her team collaborated with child trauma expert Dr. Issam Smeir to ensure the film's trauma-sensitive portrayal.

Acknowledging the challenges of animated film production, Shariha highlighted the high cost, time investment, and need for a skilled team. However, she emphasized the importance of vision, will, and starting small, with a focus on learning from mistakes. Shariha believes in the vast potential of Jordan's talented individuals with the right opportunities and mentorship. However, she highlighted the therapeutic aspect of the process and the immense support received, with international artists joining the team due to their belief in the film's message.

Shariha elaborated on her creative process, emphasizing collaboration and the incorporation of Jordanian cultural elements into "Saleem." The film's storytelling and animation aimed to convey emotional depth while remaining trauma-sensitive. Shariha envisions global audience connection through relatable characters and universal themes of hope and strength.

"Saleem" uniquely represents the heart of Jordan through visual and narrative elements. The characters, architecture, and environment authentically mirror Jordanian culture, evoking nostalgia for the 80s and 90s. Shariha emphasized the film's reflection of Jordan's welcoming nature and announced the development of the "Amal for Children" program, supporting children's mental health based on Saleem's story.

The interview shed light on the challenging and rewarding moments of the film’s production. Working during the COVID-19 pandemic presented logistical hurdles, but the team celebrated milestones like the first scene's final render receiving accolades at various festivals, showcasing its impact and recognition. The films participated in the Annecy International Animation Film Festival. Shariha expressed pride in representing Jordan on the global stage and the widespread support received from organizations like the Royal Film Commission (RFC) and Bank Al-Etihad.

Audience testimonials speak volumes
Audiences have lauded "Saleem" for its ability to evoke profound emotions. Lina, a mother of two, expresses, "The film touched my heart in unexpected ways. The portrayal of grief is so authentic, transcending cultural boundaries."

Hani remarks, "Finally, we have a film that showcases our culture on the global stage. 'Saleem' beautifully weaves Jordanian traditions into its narrative."

The film's visual aesthetics have drawn praise globally. Tamara, an animation enthusiast and student of filmmaking at SAE, enthuses, "The animation is breathtaking. Each frame feels like a work of art, a testament to the skill behind 'Saleem.'

Future aspirations and representation
Shariha, recognized as an Arab Star of Tomorrow, emphasized the need for Arab stories to be told, shaping narratives, and representing cultural diversity. She envisions a future where global audiences connect with local stories and sees the untapped market as a source of growth and opportunities for Arab talent.

"Saleem" contributes uniquely to Jordan's cultural landscape, showcasing local narratives and elements. Shariha reflected on the challenges and opportunities faced in producing an animated film in Jordan, emphasizing the immense support received from local industry stakeholders.

Read more Entertainment
Jordan News