Constructing Stories: An Expat's Journey From Engineering To Filmmaking

(MENAFN- The Peninsula) Marivie Alabanza |The Peninsula

Doha: On a busy construction site in Lusail, Nehjul Huda (pictured) executes his role as an electrical engineer with precision and dedication. Yet, amid the hum of machines and the scorching sun, his heart yearns for storytelling.

Originally from India, every few months, Nehjul flies back home, trading his hard hat for a camera. In his village in Kerala, he captures unfiltered tales of childhood and societal struggles, weaving them into poignant short films.

On Tuesday, May 28, Nehjul's film 'Ochu (The Snail)' won the“Best Family/Children Film” award for the month of April at the World Film Festival in Cannes-a monthly and annual competition for international filmmakers.

“Ochu (The Snail) is a 14-minute film centered on 13-year-old Yaya Vijitha, a student trying to find answers to her homework. It highlights issues of caste, race, gender inequalities, and the rise of fascism, among other socio-economic concerns, from the perspective of a young girl,” Nehjul told The Peninsula.

'Ochu' was shortlisted from over a thousand short films submitted worldwide.“This win is very important to me because it was a tough competition. As the writer, producer, and director, I'm thrilled that we made it to the finals and won the April edition. I share this award with my small but dedicated cast and crew,” said Nehjul.

Nehjul Huda (7th from left) with the cast, crew, and supporters of 'Ochu (The Snail)'

The World Film Festival in Cannes, not affiliated with the Cannes Film Festival, provides a great platform for amateur filmmakers to showcase their work to international critics and audiences. All monthly winners automatically enter the annual competition for a chance to receive a custom-made metal statuette, the“Luciole d'Or,” designed on the French Riviera, and have their film screened in Cannes, the world capital of cinema.

Poster for Noolu film

When asked about the difficulty of creating a film in India while working full-time in Qatar, he said,“The schedule is not an issue because I work on the film during my annual vacation. The real challenge was finding the perfect snail for the film. We searched the entire village for it.” Nehjul, 34, has been living in Qatar for over eight years and has no professional background in filmmaking. He is self-taught, learning from watching films by masters such as Akira Kurosawa, Ingmar Bergman, Andrei Tarkovsky, and Luis Buñuel. He is also inspired by Iranian directors like Majid Majidi, Jafar Panahi, and Abbas Kiarostami, as well as Indian directors like Bharathan and Padmarajan. His experience working on the set of documentary film directors like Rifa Shelies Chennara and Mohammad Rafi Tanur also helped him learn the ropes of filmmaking.

'Ochu' is not Nehjul's first project. In 2018, his team gained attention with a short film called 'Noolu (The Thread)', which won several awards at state and international film festivals. 'Noolu' tackles social bullying and its impact on the small world of a young boy, Vishnu. The film received the Second Best Film award from the Kerala State Youth Welfare Board Online Short Film Festival and was a finalist for Best Film at the 2020 Indian Film Festival-Melbourne.

“I enjoy sharing stories about children because the possibilities are endless when they are the characters. My passion fuels my creativity, allowing me to constantly come up with new ideas. I aim to showcase my films to a global audience so people can see the reality that these events are happening in some parts of the world, with children witnessing them,” Nehjul told The Peninsula.

“My trips back home are not just a retreat from my technical life here but a return to my true passion. And who knows, one day, I might produce a short film in Qatar too.”


The Peninsula

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