“I guess it’s been a long time coming,” says Lebanese director Pam Nasr on what sparked the beginnings of her career as a filmmaker. The 26-year-old always had an affinity for creativity. Having started out as a stylist, fashion served as a creative outlet whenever she worked a set. But soon enough, her role grew to take on so much more that she began to question the medium through which she wanted to express herself.
“I would take control of the shoot’s production; from location scouting and casting to set design.” she says. “At a certain point, I no longer felt like fashion was the only medium for me to express myself. I had the sudden urge to create films. I saw the entire picture and I knew what I wanted to say”
Not much time passed before Nasr already had a film under her belt. The young creative made her way to New York City just over a year ago, and by last June, her first short film titled Clams Casino made its debut. The film was quickly selected to screen across the United States, and even won Best Short Film at LA Femme Film Festival.
Nasr, who grew up in Dubai, is now bringing her film to the Middle East with her first regional screening taking place tomorrow in none other the city’s Cinema Akil. Ahead of the showing, we caught up with the young director to chat about what inspired her film, why women are at its centre, and why it’s called Clams Casino.
What was your motivation in creating this particular film, Clams Casino?
“When I discovered Mukbang, a South Korean internet phenomenon where people eat large quantities of food for money, I wanted to show how such an unusual act only seems strange at first. Once I unpacked the act, I realized something simple: people have different ways of creating solutions — usually based around your culture/ your know-how. In South Korea, the number of people living alone is increasing rapidly and loneliness is a huge aspect that many youngsters are battling with. Mukbang was their escape. Of course, there’s much more to the phenomenon that exists, but it was that angle that I related to the most and wanted to share with the world.”
Why did you decide to centre your film around the story of women in particular?
“As a woman, we hold so much that I wanted to communicate. My mother is a huge inspiration to me, her journey so far has taught me a lot about humanity and humility. I placed as much of myself as I could in my film and wanted to communicate the story in the most honest way I could.”
And why did you choose to spotlight Latinx communities in America?
“Latinx are underrepresented in cinema and New York has a huge Latin community. After meeting my boyfriend Gogy who is originally from Ecuador, and while being based in NYC, I noticed how similar my Lebanese culture is to the Latin culture. It only felt right to work with a culture I related to on so many levels. I’ve had some pretty overwhelming responses from the Latinx community when I screened in LA and NYC — a lot of them really related to the mother, Gladys’, character. It’s so humbling to feel like I was able to connect to them through my film.”
Could you tell us where the name Clams Casino comes from?
“Clams Casino is a stuffed clams dish that the lead actor Eloisa eats during her session. The two words also stand alone as direct references in the film. She fishes for clams and other shellfish, and makes money online while consuming them. I also look at Mukbang as a form of gamble. You don’t know who’s on the other side of the screen, how they are going to react to your performance, or how much money you’re going to make by the end of your session.”
What questions are you hoping to answer with this film, if any?
“Regardless of our cultures, social status or how different we are, we all have the same needs; to be wanted, to feel desired and appreciated.”
Clams Casino screens on December 28, 7:30pm at Cinema Akil.