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A Bahrain-based filmmaker will finally see his masterpiece brought to life on the big screen at the Dubai Film Festival this week after four years of hard work and determination.

Jason Carter's Grain of Sand project focuses on the kingdom's pearl diving culture and legacy, and it will be shown in front of a huge audience on the emirate's Jumeirah Beach on Friday at 7.30pm.

Jason, 48, said: "It's been a long journey and it's gone through many different stages, but it's finally ready. I have to thank the Dubai Film Festival for their motivation ... they accepted a rough cut of the film in October and gave me a strict four-week deadline to finish it!

"I've been working 10 hours a day editing it and making sure everything is as it should be - it's been a tight deadline but it was the final push I needed. It's a great feeling to deliver the film. I've edited music videos before but never a complete narrative. It's a steep learning curve and I'm delighted to have realised my vision."

According to Jason, the musical film mirrors the dichotomy of cultural identity in the Gulf region from a heritage rich in the art of survival to the dizzying heights of the 21st Century where nothing appears impossible.

He said: "A pearl begins its life as a grain of sand, the very sand which has been used in every tower block and piece of glass in every building. Beneath the rapid growth of commercialism, lies a strong musical heritage, which is vocalised through the stories and music of the pearl divers, which we would like to repatriate and harmonise with contemporary culture."

He added that each diver had his own song sang for him as he dived with each one lasting for as long as the diver could hold his breath. Divers did not carry watches and some of them could hold their breath for up to four minutes.

"If the diver had not surfaced by the time the song had finished, he would be rescued," Jason explained. "The songs were linked closely with survival and every given moment in time.

"The songs were often about preparing the boats, about leaving loved ones behind and the vulnerability of life at sea.

"The juxtaposition of the music of the pearl divers in contrast with the development of the Gulf region and its current day culture is a story that needs to be told."

Jason first sat with pearl divers in a hut in Muharraq listening to their songs, chants and stories in 1999.

He then decided to make the film as he began to realise that most of the world knew nothing about the musical tradition, so he wanted to start documenting it. He began by filming for two weeks in the UAE in 2013, before filming another two weeks of footage in Bahrain in February this year.

Jason, originally from the English county of Cornwall, is a renowned guitarist, having performed harp guitar and classical guitar concerts in more than 100 countries, including North Korea, as featured recently in GulfWeekly.

After the film is shown at the festival, he will play a concert with the pearl divers and bring the music of the film to life.

More than 1,000 hours were poured into the editing the film, including doing all of the music himself. It was an arduous process, with 46 hours of footage having to be condensed into a 55-minute film, with two hours of film reel taking a minimum of four hours to actually edit.

Jason explained: "The editing has certainly been a challenge. To go through the process and still keep the perspective of the film was tough. With a music video, you have the sound already and a visual in mind, but with a film you have to keep the story and narrative in focus.

"Creativity is important, but you have to hang it on one thread and create an atmosphere that lasts for the entire duration.

"Not only that, but the sound mixing was meticulous and by far the hardest thing I've had to do. Lots of the filming was outdoor, for example, where it was very windy, and I've had to ensure the sound is consistent and clear throughout. Similarly, the colouring and framework has had to be consistent on the visual side of things.

"One thing I've learned is that ruthlessness is really important! Many great ideas have ended up on the cutting room floor, and I've had close friends who I trust tell me to omit certain things that I was reluctant to abandon. I had to keep the overall project in mind and I'm grateful for their help."

As for the future, Jason hopes the first round of exposure at the film festival will open the doors to finding a home for Grain of Sand on a major TV network.

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Publication:Gulf Weekly
Geographic Code:7UNIT
Date:Dec 6, 2017
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