“Divya Mathur talks to Chaand Chazelle about her debut feature film, Throw of a Dice.”
Divya: Congratulations, your film, Throw of a Dice, was awarded the Audience Award by the Tongues on Fire Festival. You also won the Best Film Award in the Black International Film Festival held in Birmingham. Having won those awards, how did it help the movie?
Chaand: If you mean help in the sense—have we sold the movie? No, not yet.
Divya: Your film was also screened in Los Angeles, how did that come about?
Chaand: I submitted my film to the Pan-African Film Festival in Los Angeles, where out of thousands of films, a couple of hundred were chosen. Yes, we were lucky, our film got selected and played to full houses over two nights. It was very well received. Wil Johnson, the lead of the film, also attended. People in the audience shouted, “This film deserves an Academy Award”, but then so called minority films don’t get noticed or get any publicity.Thanks, for interviewing me for Confluence.
Divya: But it was screened at the British Film Institute, that’s a great honour in itself, isn’t it?
Chaand: It definitely is. Once again, it was a full house.People stayed to discuss the film for two hours after the screening, hanging around the bar. We had two screenings at the Watermans in Brentford as well as in Chandigarh and Delhi in India. Watermans screening was sold out two weeks ahead. It does not often happen in that cinema.
Divya: Congratulations. No doubt, it’s a thought provoking edgy film. Having full houses everywhere—how does it feel?
Chaand: It feels wonderful to see people moved by the story. But I am still waiting for thoughtful distributors to come forward. A few distributors have seen the film, they liked it too but none have offered me any deal yet; I am still waiting.
Divya: Is it because the subject is hard hitting and controversial?
Chaand: Maybe, but the truth must be told. That’s what the artists, writers and poets’ remit in life , must be as Plato once said, “Artists are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.”
Divya: I think the trailer of the film is still on YouTube?
Chaand: Yes it is If anyone wants to view it, it’s there. Having viewed, if someone wishes to contact me via Confluence, they can.
Divya: You spent ten long years working on your first feature film. I’m sure it was a labour of love but was this arduous journey worth it?
Chaand: One always suffers for love and art but Art certainly is rewarding and long lasting. It was a huge learning curve, very hard but yes, it was worth it.
Divya: I know the hoops you jumped through, having to write, produce and direct yourself, I know you had very little help. How did you manage such a huge project?
Chaand: I may be obstinate or deluded but it needs dedication to achieve anything in life. I never ever imagined I could make a 97 minute full length feature film but I did.
Divya: What is the theme of your film?
Chaand: As you know, most of my family members are doctors, science always interested me too and I studied Biology. There are 3 billion genes in the human genome, but only six pairs determine our appearance and only one pair of genes is responsible for our skin colour. We all hail from 600 families in Africa. The first humans lived in Cave 13-B in South Africa, 99.9% of our shared genes should unite us not divide. Why do appearances matter? Models get paid for just the way they look, how superficial is that?
Divya: Isn’t selling your house to make a movie is insane?
Chaand: It’s only a possession, can be acquired again. Art will last, for everyone, not just for my survivors.
Divya: Writing a book might have been much cheaper?
Chaand: May be but you know very well that getting a book published in the UK is not that easy. JK Rowling too was turned down by 13 publishers!
Divya: What if your film made millions?
Chaand: Good, I can make my next film without a begging bowl…
Divya: How was the production process?
Chaand: Very stressful, I learnt the hard way. I had no money to hire anyone so my son and I did everything, produced almost single handed.
Divya: I believe, you even cooked for the unit, is that true?
Chaand: Absolutely true, finish shooting late then shopped and cooked for the morning, a well-fed crew is a happy crew.
Divya: Why could you not secure funding?
Chaand: I’m pretty sure, there is a clique, outsiders like me have less chance of securing any funding.We did try, didn’t get anything.
Divya: Securing copyright for recorded music is a nightmare, how did you manage the music score?
Chaand: Once again, my son came to my rescue. Although he is a rock musician, he composed for my film.
Divya: Are you happy with the outcome?
Chaand: Not entirely. All the crew was 1st timers. They had never done a movie before. It was very hard to finish the project. But then a film is not only about beautiful good locations and technical perfection. Without content, no film has any value. It may depicts an unpalatable social reality but we need to express the reality, what goes on in the soceity.
Divya: What are your hopes for your first film?
Chaand: that it reaches masses, for which I need a good distributor. I am not Ken Loach or Spielberg; it still took them ages to make Purple and Schindler’s List.
Divya: Why call it Throw Of A Dice?
Chaand: Well…inheriting genes from our ancestors is a gamble. We can’t choose our parents, the demography we are born into is a gamble, an accident of birth!
Divya: What next?
Chaand: Next one is about retrieving Koh-i-Noor to India. It is called The Sole Custodian. Set in 1839 at the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the story is a fictional account based on true historical events. Right now, I am editing a short film about the older people’s concerns, also writing a novel, Girls Shouldn’t Laugh.
Divya: Thanks, Chaand for taking the time out of such a busy schedule of yours.
Chaand: It is my pleasure.
Divya Mathur, FRSA is a poet and a story writer. She is also the Founder President at Vatayan: Poetry on South Bank.