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SIFF: Interview with Harman Hussin, director of Road to Mecca

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Harman Hussin’s Road to Mecca celebrated its World Premiere right here at Sinema Old School in the first Singapore Panorama at the 21st Singapore International Film Festival (SIFF). Packed to the brim, the movie was wholly funded by sale of t-shirts printed by the director.

harman.jpgMade with the shoestring budget, the director also took on the role of cameraman, scriptwriter, producer and sound designer. He also took stills on his epic journey through Asia towards Mecca, which will be on display soon at an exhibition, as well as compiled into a companion book. Read on for an interview with the all-encompassing filmmaker about his film Road to Mecca!

Inez Maria (IM): Why did you choose to go to Mecca by other means of transportation instead of the usual and quickest way by plane?

HH: I wanted to see more on the journey, and this is my dream – to pass through the land with an open heart. I think when you see it, you’ll believe it.

IM: You sold t-shirts to fund your documentary and the Mecca trip – how difficult was it to gain funding? [spoiler alert]

HH: It was really difficult! I sent a couple of proposals non-reply. My entire fund was from selling t-shirts only. Actually, an organisation was supposed to sponsor for my trip, but 3 months before my departure they decided to back out. So I had only 3 months to get my t-shirts printed and sold. As a result, I had to postpone my trip by a few months. I knew no matter what I had to go – no matter the funds I had and how I made it. If I had not gone through with it I would have felt guilty that I never bothered trying. I’d rather keep on trying and even though I didn’t make it to Mecca in the end due to the visa problems. I did mange to profit about $2K from selling my t-shirt though!

rtm2.jpgIM: What was the biggest difficulty you faced in your journey to Mecca?

HH: Getting the Visa was really a pain! There was problems in getting the Saudi Arabian visa, which I was told could be gotten from the last place I embarked from. Plus the visa was seasonal – they were only for the Haji period, and because I had to go much earlier it was more difficult to get it.

IM: And what was your experience like throughout the journey?

HH: To me, it has become a metaphorical journey of life. My first intention was always to go to Mecca and perform the pilgrimage, and my second was of course to make a documentary in which I could share with everyone my experiences during the journey to Mecca.

IM: Were you then afraid of the audiences assuming that you went to make the documentary, instead of as a religious act?

HH: No, I was not afraid of the audience perception. I wanted to show everyone that even though I was distracted and albeit sidetracked with sight-seeing and the culture, I told myself repeatedly that I was not on a holiday. So I was able and determined to get back on track. The film was a way of me showing that even with all the distractions, I had the will and power to finish up what I started. Perhaps some of the audiences would think that my intention was to just showcase a documentary, and others may think otherwise, but I’m unable to please everyone with my intention, which was always to go to Mecca and perform pilgrimage.

IM: So would you ever do this again?

HH: Yes, definitely! But not this year, its too late to try…

rtm.jpgIM: Out of all of the places you visited, which was the most interesting country?

HH: I liked India and Pakistan. I learned a lot form those countries – not that i didn’t learn much from the rest. This is probably due to the longer period which I spent in India and Pakistan.

IM: Quite a few eyebrows were raised when your film was programmed to come after Dance of a Modern Marriage, an R21 film revolving around swingers. How did you feel about the pairing?

HH: Well I wouldn’t say it is a good pairing but I wouldn’t say its bad either. I am open to the film even though it is very different from my documentary. But I must say that I have received feedback from the audiences who were unhappy that the two films were paired together.

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