SIFF: Interview with Yousry Mansour, director of Dirt Out
The world premiere of Dirt Out kicks off tomorrow at Sinema Old School and I speak to director Yousry Mansour about the documentary which follows The Dirt Bike Riders as they journey to various Motocross championships and share their aspirations and dreams.
JF: Why this film?Ã‚ What triggered the idea, and what purpose do you hope to achieve with it?
YM (Yousry Mansour):This film is about talented people who have no opportunity in a country like Singapore where everything is measured by dollars and cents. The Dirt Bike Riders in Singapore are given no opportunity or at the very best; a very slim and small window to exercise their sport. They struggle so much just to practice their sport. They are an example of how talents can be wasted and lost in Singapore. The idea was triggered as I was feeling so down after completing my last short film in Singapore and was unable to get it out for screening anywhere (no one tells you the reason).
My Director of Photography came to me and mentioned about his friend who travels every weekend to Johor to practice Dirt Bike riding and he asked me if I am interested to make a documentary. At the beginning, I was not excited but suddenly I found my own reason to document this story, their story is a reflection of my own story struggling to make films in Singapore. This documentary is about keeping the faith. It is about having the hope shining in our hearts. With this film I hope to affirm that there is always light at the end of the tunnel.
JF: How long did it take for you to make this film?
YM: From September 2007 till February 2008.
JF: Did you encounter any difficulties during the film making, or was it generally an easy process?
In every film, you encounter different kinds of difficulties. The main difficulty I always face in Singapore is lack of equipment, lack of crew and not to forget lack of money (budget). We were also unable to shoot at the causeway because it is a restricted zone. We were unable to interview many other people because they refused to be interviewed.
JF: Are you a dirt bike rider yourself?
YM: No. I don’t even ride a bicycle.
JF: How did you do your research into the culture of dirt bike riding?
YM: I followed the dirt bike riders, I spoke to them and I Google-d.
JF: What else did you do to prepare for this film?
YM: I submitted the project to Singapore Film Commission for funding but it was rejected (no reasons given, as usual). I contacted MCYS (Ministry of Community development, Youth and Sports) to get some high level people interviewed but was unable to.
JF: Do you think this film will bring about greater awareness of the dirt bike riding culture, or change attitudes among the bureaucrats when it comes to supporting this motor sport?
YM: Perhaps it can do some or all of these things that you mentioned and perhaps it can lead to nothing at all. The most important thing here that we have documented this story and we have put enough light for everyone to see. What sort of actions people will take is always to be seen.
JF: What are you planning to do next after this film?
I will continue making films. I have a story inside my computer for the last ten months waiting to be written and produced. It is a feature length fiction film titled: “Syed, Shaikh and all the others” about marriage problems among the Arab community in Singapore. Also, I have another treatment for a feature length documentary titled “The immigrants” about people immigrating to Singapore and others who are immigrating to other countries. Why these immigrants are coming to Singapore and why others are leaving; they are all searching for a home, but is the grass really greener on the other side?