On Tuesday evening Bollyspice had the opportunity to attend a special screening of ‘Throw of a Dice’, which is being shown as part of the Tongues on Fire’s 14th London Asian Film Festival, a festival dedicated to providing a unique platform for South East Asian filmmakers from around the world.
‘Throw of a dice’ stars Wil Johnson (Waking the Dead, Adulthood and Anuvahood) and is written, edited, produced and directed by Chaand Chazzel, an inspiring first time filmmaker. The story follows Duncan, who despite a PhD in Genetics, stacks shelves in a supermarket. A chance meeting with Neeta and her niece Kaamni secures him a job and the woman of his dreams. However, his happy life is cut short when Justin, Duncan’s younger brother, is car-jacked and burnt alive by a white gang. Duncan is devastated, he struggles to come to terms with Justin’s murder. With this knowledge of genetics he embarks upon a quest to protect the life of his future unborn baby.
We managed to grab a few moments with Chaand just before the screening to ask her a bit about the film, in what was a brief but extremely inspiring conversation:
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
As a child I was crazy about films and as you know in India we grow up on the diet of films. In those days we had no television, but my mum was a film buff and hence when we were around 10 years old we used to go to the movies and it was great. So it is no wonder that film is in me and then when I was sixteen I did radio and I used to present programmes on the stage, but I soon realised that that film is the most powerful medium, for example films like ‘Lambs for Lion’, ‘Kite Runner’, ‘Charlie Wilson’s War’. All topical films and in life we need to tell stories, even from the early days Plato talked about the human need for stories and also a human need for real stories.
Can you tell us a bit more about the film and your inspiration for it?
In 1997 there was a black guy who was burnt alive by three white guys and that event quite upset me. Five years later in 2002, the police still said that it wasn’t a racist attack, but we know that it was and on the eleventh day before he died, he shared with his brother that it was indeed a racist attack.
So the film is about why appearances provoke you to go and kill somebody and because my first degree is in science I wanted to educate through this film, that’s why I’m using this format, to tell people that genetically we are not so different.
The other thing is that the death (of the young black man) is a bereavement and any bereavement in a family is painful, but the way he was burnt alive is ten times more painful. Everybody deals with bereavements differently, but my character being a geneticist takes a different path, that of: if my son, like my brother, is going to be a target of racism and I’m a geneticist, then it is just one gene I need to switch off in order to prevent that from happening.
So in a way it is an informative and educational film, which I think everybody can relate to because that is something people can emphasize with. But racism is not such an easy thing to depict because it can scar you psychologically and that is what happens to my character and why he goes to that extent.
How did you come about bringing the film together?
Ten years of my life! Every week, often twice a week and each single free day I had, I went to many film networks, film academies and film courses such as the London Film School. I went to all those places to find people, to learn lighting, directing, camera angles, editing – just so I could familiarise myself with the art of filmmaking.
Being a single parent the first priority is to pay the bills and to pay the mortgage, then your artistic endeavours take a backseat, but now my son is older I can do all this, he is a musician and writer and was a great help to the film, without which I could not have made it.
What about film production and financing?
No financing at all! Basically some of my friends got together, sort of like a co-op and then most of the actors worked on a deferred payment and if we can sell the film, then we can pay them…
So what are your plans for taking this film wider?
At the moment we’re applying to enter the various film festivals Locarno, Sundance, Dubai, Goa, Bombay, New Zealand and Durban and some screenings at ICA and BAFTA.
What next for Chaand then?
Well, the next film in the pipeline is about the Kohinoor diamond and is called ‘Retrieving the Kohinoor’ and I am going to say that Queen Victoria was a kidnapper and a thief, because she took a nine year old child (Maharajah Duleep Singh) without permission, snathched from his mother and taken to another country where he does not even know that he was Sikh and therefore brought up as Christian. I want George Clooney to play the lead and Sushmita Sen as the female lead!
It is certainly inspiring and infectious talking with Chaand and a real example of how if you put your heart in it, one can accomplish their dream and create their film. If you get a chance do go and see ‘Throw of a Dice’, as it poses many difficult ethical questions about race and genes, it also examines the human ability to deal with such a trauma and its lasting effect on their psyche. Here’s wishing Chaand and her team all the very best from the Bollyspice team!