Sabina England, or Deaf Brown Trash Punk as some will know her, is a colourful character at the best of times. I first met her on authonomy where her entrance, characteristically led by a greeting laced with the 'C' word, caused outrage amongst the serried ranks of tank-top wearing literary aspirants. Her book, 'Brown Trash' was a stunning read - fresh, challenging and with so much voice you'd want to cover your ears to block out its strident call. If you did, you'd get a taste of Sabina World, because she is (as you may have worked out from the above sobriquet) profoundly deaf.
Sabina's silent movies have been popping up on YouTube for a while now and have earned her a growing following. Her stageplays, never less than provocative, have been produced both in the US and UK and now she's gone and written, direct and produced a bigger budget film, 'The Wedding Night' - a much slicker piece that has so far been funded by donations raised by supporters. She's not quite there yet, the film's in the can (well, on the hard disk) but she needs more money to pay for the final edit. Take a look at the trailer:
I wanted to bring Sabina onto the radio show I co-host with Jessica Swann every Tuesday on Dubai Eye Radio, Dubai Today, but there's a slight glitch - being deaf is a slight impediment to doing phone interviews on the radio. So we did it by text instead:
What inspired the idea of ‘The Wedding Night’?
I was inspired to write "Wedding Night," which was originally a stage play. It is a very minimalist piece with just 2 actors in a hotel room. And I thought to myself, I can turn this into a film with a very low budget. It is heavy on drama, but very light on the budget. I wrote "Wedding Night" because it is a feminist response to the hypocrisy of sex and women's bodies in Indian-Pakistani culture and amongst Muslims. It is widely accepted for males to have had sexual experience and to have many female partners, yet if a woman dares to explore her sexuality and have sex with just 1 man, she is shunned and shamed by society. Also, I was inspired and disgusted by countless real-life stories I have heard about forced arranged marriages and the tragic consequences that come out of it.
Who are the actors? Are they trained?
The actors are Alpa Banker (actress) and Sanjiv Bajaj (actor). Alpa is a professional actress who lives in Los Angeles. She does theatre, commercials, modeling, and film. Sanjiv Bajaj is a doctor who graduated from Princeton University and founded an independent South Asian theatre company. They were both amazing in their roles.
What was the greatest challenge in conceiving, filming and directing this?
The greatest challenge to make the film happen was getting started in the first place. I didn't know who I was going to hire to shoot the film. I didn't have any money. I didn't have a goddamned clue how to go make this happen. But after consulting many Facebook friends who have worked in the film industry, I got some very good ideas and began raising funds through IndieGoGo. I also posted ads online seeking crew and actors. And soon, all these people were coming up to me and they wanted to work with me.
What’s your hope for it?
I don't have any hope for "Wedding Night." I just made the film because I've always wanted to be a filmmaker, it was always a dream of mine to write, direct and produce my own film and call my own shots. Well, I did it, and I'm glad.
Conflict runs through your work; you hit issues head on all the time and relish holding their little corpses up to show us. What was your one BIG target here, among all the little targets you’re hitting?
My big target in Wedding Night? It's just a big fuck you message to all these narrow-minded male chauvinists in our society. Misogynists, chauvinists, old-fashioned, sexist males and even sexist females, who believe that sex is a bad thing, these people who look down at women for even daring to speak out about sex and for having the courage to explore their sexualities. Sexual liberty is one of the most important rights for human beings, yet most people won't acknowledge that. "Wedding Night" is also a film that proudly shoves female aggression in your face. It's a film that says "hey, women have rights, too and we're not going to let you push us down."
It’s very slick, the trailer. How much did it cost and how did you raise it/convince people to take part in it?
The trailer didn't cost me any money. I just salvaged the film footage from the storage drive and then I created it on my laptop. But the real money will be pouring into post-production. It will cost me $4,000. Post Production includes: editing, colorization, sound synching, music, credits, and so on. When I first began to raise money for the film shoot, I used IndieGoGo and convinced a lot of people to donate to my film project. I raised over $1,000. I said that if you wanted to support a Deaf South Asian Muslim female filmmaker, this is your chance to help me. Hollywood is notoriously racist, sexist, and misogynistic. There are plenty of successful female filmmakers, yet they are ignored and shunned by the Hollywood studio system. Men are always favored over women. And then white men are always favored over non-white men and people of color. And then of course, most people cannot name a successful Deaf person working in Hollywood. So I said, if you're tired of the Hollywood studio system and you want to help someone make a film on her own, this is it. And that's how I got a lot of donations from the public.
Why would anyone in their right minds fund a revolutionary film-maker who’s made a habit of confronting taboos and prejudice so violently and graphically?
I have a little bit over $1,500 in donations for my Film Finishing Fund now, but I need more. If you can donate as little as $10 or $100, that would be great. If you're wondering why you should help me out, all I can say is this: if you go to the cinema and you complain about how mediocre, stupid and pathetic the female lead is, or if you read an article about Hollywood or Bollywood and you complain about the lack of successful female filmmakers being ignored, or if you complain about how film awards are always being handed out to men instead of women, then do something about it. Take out your wallet and give money to an aspiring female filmmaker. Encourage a Deaf person to become a filmmaker, artist, or writer and make their voices be heard. Encourage more filmmakers to make strong, interesting films about strong female leads instead of always creating bimbo, weak, pathetic female characters. Encourage young Muslims and South Asians to go out there and create a film, novel, play, or music that's not typical or cliched. Give me your money and I'll make more films with even better storylines that'll smash the mirror and shove it in people's faces.
The Internet has given you a voice and audience you otherwise wouldn't have, hasn't it?
I think in the Digital Age, in the age of youtube and Vimeo, in the age when crowd-sourced funding is becoming so common, we will face an even bigger change coming onto the filmmaking field. Today, you can create a webseries and put all the episodes online and people will watch. You can put your film online and people will watch. You can even get press attention from it, too. It's nice. More people are discovering that they don't need to get an agent or approach a film producer to get their scripts produced. You don't need to move to Los Angeles to be a filmmaker!! Who cares about Hollywood or Bollywood? Who cares about these irrelevant, pointless networking parties? You don't need an agent. You don't need famous friends. Write a script, set up an online fundraiser, ask people to donate money. I made a film on my own, and so can you. Hollywood is a place that needs to be destroyed. Hollywood keeps churning out pointless remakes and sequels. Hollywood keeps churning out the same, tired, sexist, racist, homophobic stereotypes. Hollywood is a white boys club where women and people of color are struggling to get into. Well, guess what? The studio system is rigid and it's time for Hollywood to collapse and crumble down.
Sabina's website is linked here or you can find her on Twitter: @jihadpunk77.