Kareem's Vengeance (2005)

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BAD DAY IN SOUTHALL: THE MAKING OF KAREEM'S VENGEANCE


Kareem's Vengeance is based on a true story. (As horrible as that is to believe) Ashvin-Kumar Joshi wanted to make this film to highlight a taboo that doesn't get talked about in his community, and he wanted that to change.


After the success of Goodbye, Ashvin came to me with the idea of Kareem's Vengeance. At the time we were calling it Bad Day In Southill, after the Spencer Tracey film, Bad Day At Black Rock, but we decided to change it. Bad Day At Black Rock is a great film, but we wanted our own identity for this film. (I did try to make a feature using the Bad Day In Southall title, but it never happened)


Ashvin was going to write and direct this film, and I was going to produce. It was a bit weird not to be in the directing seat, but Ashvin thought it would be better for the film that he tell the story and not a white man. Also, he was very passionate about the project, so I was happy to stand aside and help Ashving make this film.


I had just bought a Sony Z1, so this film was going to mark my first foray into HD. I was able to get a loan from the bank and I bought the camera the very first week it came out. This camera is a workhorse of a camera, and I still use it to this day.


Getting to grips with the Sony Z1


For the part of Saira, Ashvin knew an actress called Catherine Mobley. He had spoken to her about the role and told her up front what was required of her. If it wasn't for the fact that Catherine knew Ashvin she wouldn't of taken the role.


We decided from the get go that this would be unflinching look at rape. It's not there as entertainment, but we weren't going to shy away from it neither. Of course, a few people had a problem with this. We did an open casting for another role. The Sunday before the auditions, an actress called me up and asked me why we were going to show the rape in the film. She told me that it should be off screen. That the camera could pan away and we could hear the sounds of it. She had shown the script to a director friend of her's and he agreed with her. Not only did she break our trust by showing our script to another outsider, but she wasn't even auditioning for that part. I told her flatly not to turn up to the audition.


The auditions went smoothly. We went back to the London Welsh Centre to hold them. We saw a lot of good actresses and we decided on Ruth Kastenbaum to play the part of Vicky, Saira's friend.


Returning to work on the crew was Daniell Loosli (Continuity), Nicola Grimshaw (Makeup) and Simon Colley (Runner). Joining the crew was Andrew Rowe (Sound Recordist). This was the only time I worked with Andrew, which is a shame, as he is a very good sound recordist and was so easy to get ou with.


Andrew Rowe, sound recordist extraordinaire


This time it was going to be a two day shoot, with a two extra days for pickups scheduled for the following week. The first day we shot all the scenes with Kareem and Vicky. We filmed at a house in Cranford, owned by a filmmaker friend of Ashvin's called Amrit Bains. (The following year I would actually shoot some shorts for her) It was a nice house, but problem was that it near heathrow and the plans would fly over really low, so it was a nightmare for sound. We constantly had to roll the camera as a plane was overhead and then call action as soon as it was gone. We got all the shots we needed, in the time we had, but it was tough.


Now one thing that did come up, and I don't want to sound mean to Ruth, but at the end of one of the scenes she had to take her top off and she refused. Now weren't going to show her topless. We wanted to give the impression that she was. The shot was going to be from the shoulders up. She could wear a t-shirt or top underneath and just move it down to reveal her shoulders. But as we were about to shoot, it she didn't want to do it. Now we had talked to her about at the audition, and during the run up to filming, and she had been happy to do it, but on the day she changed her mind. Ashvin was happy for her not to do it. Me, I wasn't happy. It would make no sense to take her top off, just to show another top underneath. She was trying to seduce Kareem. Every time I watch the film, it makes no sense, but what can you do?.


The second day of filming was at Ashvin's place. We were going to film all the scenes with Kareem and Saira. For these scenes we had a closed set. A closed set is when you are shooting nudity or scenes of a sexual nature. Usually there is only the director, camera crew and sound. If you don't have to be there, you are not there. Ashvin and Catherine blocked out the scene. Going over every part of the rape scene. Just to be sure that she was happy with everything that we were going to shoot. Once everybody was happy, we shot it. We only did a couple of setups, with only a couple of takes, just so we could get through it. It was one of the most distressing things I had to film. Once we were done, we invited the rest of crew back in and we filmed the rest of the scenes. We wrapped early that day.


Stephen Cartwright at the Sutton Film Festival


Later that week, I met up with Ashvin to film all the exterior scenes. All the shots of Kareem walking the streets, sitting in cafes, making phone calls,sitting on the train. Before we would had to do all of this at the same time as filming the main scenes, as we would of rented the camera. But as I owned my own camera, we could do this any time we wanted. It was all shot gurellia style. We would find a place, set the camera down and filmed. The shot of Kareem in the cafe, I filmed from Ashvin's car. Nobody noticed us.


This was the first film I worked with Stephen Cartwright on. I had received an email from him, asking if we were looking for a composer. We were. Ashvin and me met Stephen to talk about the project, and we got on like a house on fire. After our meeting, Stephen went away and listened to a lot of Indian music, so to get a flavour of what sound that Ashvin wanted for the film. I was there for the music sessions, but I heard back from Ashvin that Stephen was very easy to work with. (I would go on to work with Stephen on Post-its and the Monologur Triptych trilogy)


For the sound design, I found David Loughran to do it. He was working at a post production house in Soho. I wasn't allowed to go in there, so I would meet David outside and he would give me the work that he had done on a CD-ROM. He did such a good job, that I didn't really need to supervise.


The film was finished in October 2005, just in time to have it's premiere at the Sutton Film Festival. It was a great day for us. I remember after the screening that people couldn't look at Ashvin, fearing that he was that hard man they just saw on screen. The response was good. We were happy that the message that Ashvin wanted to get out there was being received by audiences./p>