If you want to understand culture, you first need to understand its people. That’s the mindset that triggered 27-year-old Saudi-born Jordanian filmmaker Mohannad Abu Rizk’s obsession with documenting the stories of those around him.
For him, being an artist is synonymous with preserving the hidden tales of humans, their motives, their dreams, and their challenges. “I want to document our realities; however they look, our most beautiful moments and our darkest,” he tells us.
His passion for filmography is anything but new. Having first picked up a camera at 13-years-old, he eventually graduated with a BA in digital filmmaking from Amman’s SAE Institute. In 2015, he released his first short film The Road to Nowhere, which follows a young Arab man who is always facing people telling him everything he does is wrong.
The film reached one million views on Facebook which fueled Abu Rizk with confidence and faith in his work, pushing him to create more content about social issues.
“I have a strong belief that everyone has a story that deserves to be told. I love this magical feeling of a film that tells that story and certain moment. When the whole story of a person clicks with you and makes you reflect it on yourself; this curiosity is what pushes me to create,” he says.
A big believer in trial and error, Abu Rizk puts simplicity above all when it comes to filmmaking, never overthinking his creative process. “The true skill of an artist isn’t how complex their art is, but it’s mastering the effect of even the simplest of shots,” he explains.
“My favorite kinds of shots are the simple ones that can show you a character, their feelings, and the ones that give you an insight to their life through their surroundings.”
Something the filmmaker particularly enjoys is creating a bridge between the audience and his real, authentic and unfiltered characters. Thus, the human side of things is always put to focus in his work, notably his series of asking random questions to strangers.
“The idea was actually inspired by a Jordanian filmmaker that I don’t know and I can no longer find any trace of! I remember watching a video in 2012 filmed in Jordan in which someone is asking random people: “If today was your last day, how would you live it?”, Abu Rizk recalls.
Inspired by the concept, the filmmaker set out to do the same, only from the heart of his own community in Jordan.
Along with his Assistant Director Abdulkader Abed, the filmmaker has spent his days walking around the streets of Amman asking everyone, from children to elderlies about their life-changing moments, childhood dreams, and biggest fears.
“Once we reached a guy sitting alone, he wasn’t interested in being filmed but we kept on talking to him, getting to know each other and talking about some of his memories.” Abu Rizk says before adding:
“He told us that one of his parents died a few days ago, that this was his first day out since then and that this encounter and conversation with complete strangers made it easier on him. I was thankful that we were there for him at the right time and place even if it wasn’t intended,” he continued.
Another captivating series by the filmmaker is ‘Streets of Amman’. Each episode puts forth one individual and one street, exploring their memories and the emotional connection people have to those streets.
But Amman isn’t the only place that Abu Rizk wants to explore. He has also made a stop at Egypt with a series of random questions and is hoping to tour the region in order to engage with the different people and learn about their differences and similarities.