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In Baghdad in 1990, a boy reacts to an approaching war by escaping underground into his own fantasy world, searching for answers.
In Baghdad in 1990, a boy reacts to an approaching war by escaping underground into his own fantasy world, searching for answers.
183 backers pledged $20,888 to help bring this project to life.

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A Star in the Desert, a short film. Genre: Fantasy Drama

$20,888

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ABOUT ME: I am a first generation Iraqi American female, and have spent the vast majority of my life caught in between two worlds - one as an American, and one as an Iraqi (with some ties to Iran). As part of the non-profit work as a Board member of TechWadi, in helping create bridges between the United States and Middle East, I spend a lot of time mentoring aspiring entrepreneurs and promoting economic development in the region. Nearly every visit to the Middle East has made a lasting impression on me, and I am endlessly in awe of the blend of cultures, languages, and perspectives in a region where so much change and complexity has occurred in the last 30+ years. 

ABOUT THE FILM: After having witnessed the years of suffering that my family members experienced in Iraq, I felt deeply inspired to write a screenplay that could capture the essence of human suffering, without focusing on political agendas or political propaganda. 

A Star in the Desert is a 15-minute dramatic short film that tells the story of the first day of the bombing of Baghdad from a child’s point of view. As Heider and his mother descend into the basement for security, his mother warns him it is no longer safe to play outside. They plan to travel to Jordan as soon as possible, but Heider, who still believes his dead father will return, wonders how his dad will find them if they leave.

The following morning reality, fantasy and dreamscape overlap as Heider ventures through a trap door into the underground tunnels soldiers once used to escape the draft. Many of the elements found underground are of symbolic nature: a river, a cave, an unseen friend crying for help, a giant bird that attacks him and his escape into the desert sand dunes where he is chased by men on horseback and tries desperately to find and touch a star in the sky.

Brutally awaken onto the operating table where other children are also badly burned and his mother stands wailing – Heider is unable even to say goodbye. We are left with the news recounting the first bombs to hit Baghdad and the unfortunate children who were outside playing soccer.

Heider is, as he always believed, finally reunited with his father, but it is in the afterlife, in the familiar desert, where they find each other.

A Star in the Desert explores how children interpret war, as well as how they often retreat to fantasy in order to make sense of what’s happening around them. The film aims to shine light on the number of children in the world affected by war. We hope to begin a constructive dialogue on how to both prevent these traumas and rehabilitate the children.

Further -- "disconnection" is the disease of our time.  Despite the war waged outside, the real battle that Heider fights takes place in his own mind. Our hope is that this story will encourage each of you to look at your own lives and explore the impact of “disconnection” and “fragmentation of self” with your friends and families. With greater awareness and conversations, we can live in a world with less fragmentation, and less suffering and loneliness.

The film provides a simple message; one that is universal and human about survival and the depths of the human imagination that allows us to transcend ourselves into another reality. 

My mom's painting of the cover of the fairytale book that the boy reads before his mom takes him down to the basement.
My mom's painting of the cover of the fairytale book that the boy reads before his mom takes him down to the basement.

WHY WE'RE MAKING THIS: There is a story within a story with complex meanings embedded throughout the film, but the universal message is one about human suffering and using denial and imagination to escape reality as a coping mechanism during a time of tragedy and fear. 

Escapism is often the answer to much of human suffering and fear today. When our external reality is so painful and terrifying, we are often conditioned to find ways to escape through alcohol, relationships, status, power, dreams and more that take us away from the present moment. Whether we escape through our imagination or through external influences, the core theme is denial - and turning away from what is painful and scary, which often begets more pain & suffering. 

I want the audience to really feel what is going on in the mind of a child who is coming to terms with his situation at such a young age. 

The boy slips in and out of dream state where his reality is a nightmare but his dreams are hauntingly beautiful and magical, and become a window into a better life. In a sense, he is caught in between two worlds.  This story and the corresponding message could take place in any war zone, and in any place in the world. Our goal is to capture the reactions of a child who is faced with tragedy and create a dialogue about human suffering and escapism. 

HOW WE PLAN TO MAKE THIS: I couldn’t be more excited to share that Oaday Awadalla, my Executive Producer and I have partnered with Zachary Kerschberg to direct the film. 

Zachary studied at NYU’s graduate school of film, and has years of experience directing films in the Middle East, including the film shot in Tunisia called "Late Spring". His films have screened at numerous festivals including Canne and SXSW, and have been distributed worldwide. Zach has worked with renowned actors, such as James Franco, Chloe Sevigny, and Logan Marshall Green. 

BONUS: We also have someone on Katherine Bigelow's team committed to the production of the film as well.  

Taken at Blue Cloud Ranch by Zachary last month in LA.
Taken at Blue Cloud Ranch by Zachary last month in LA.

We've raised a small amount from friends and family, but your contribution will get us into production this summer. 

HOW YOU CAN HELP: 

1. Fund the Film: Any amount counts and we appreciate your support 
2. Share the Kickstarter link with friends and family and anyone else who might be interested in this story. 
3. Follow us on Social Media: Facebook Page Instagram 

Budget Breakdown for film (estimated): 

A. Pre-Production: $35,000 

B. Production: $50,000

C. Post-Production: $10,000

GRAND TOTAL BUDGET: $95,000 

HOW WE PLAN TO DISTRIBUTE THE FILM: We plan to submit this film into a variety of international film festivals and plan to make this available on TV stations worldwide, on-demand. 

Thank you for supporting us! 

Risks and challenges

We may need more time to complete some of the scenes, because we're filming with a child actor.

We're also planning to film the scenes from Baghdad at Blue Cloud ranch which is our first option but if scheduling doesn't align with when our actors are ready to film, we may have to look for another location site for the scenes from Baghdad.

However, we have an incredible team and we're planning to complete this film by the end of the summer so that we can submit it into international film festivals. Thank you again for your support!

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    Pledge US$ 25 or more About US$ 25

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    Thank you so much for your contribution and your support in helping us make this film! We are grateful that you're joining us on this journey.

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    Digital access to the film

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    With your contribution, we'll send you digital access to the film once it's produced.

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    Reward #2

    Thank you! We very much appreciate your support for this film and story. We'd love to send you a postcard of "A Star in the Desert" painting, which is the cover of the book that the boy reads in the film. This painting was done by my mother.

    Digital access to the film when finished.

    Includes:
    • A Star In the Desert Painting
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    Reward #3

    Thank you! We very much appreciate your generous support! As a reward, we'd love to offer an opportunity to meet a member of the film crew + receive two downloadable artistic paintings from scenes in the movie + a postcard of a painting from the film.

    Digital access to the film when finished.

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    Reward #4

    Thank you! We appreciate your contribution and support in helping us make this film. As a thank you, we'd love to offer you a digital copy of the film as soon as it's available, a postcard of one of the paintings from a scene in the film and a movie film poster.

    2 tickets to the live screening of the film in San Francisco.

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    Reward #5

    Thank you! Your support means a lot to us. As a thank you, we'd love to offer you an opportunity to meet the crew + receive three downloadable digital paintings + digital copy of the film as soon as it's available, with your name in the credits as a contributor + 2 tickets to the live screening of the film in San Francisco.

    Note: Travel not included

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    Pledge US$ 10,000 About US$ 10,000

    Pledge $10,000 or more

    Thank you for your contribution! We appreciate your support in helping us make this film! We plan to add your name as an Executive Producer in the credits. We'd also love to offer you the opportunity to hang and meet the crew and join us when we film this summer + receive one of the original hand paintings in canvas from the film. This was hand painted by my mother Sue Turayhi. Digital access to the film when finished + 2 tickets to the live screening of the film in San Francisco.

    Note: Travel not included

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Funding period

- (45 days)