“The world will never run out of good stories to make movies about. A lifetime is never enough to what one can accomplish”
Behind the lens that captured the raw pain of Jordanian orphans, stood a gifted lady with a passion that goes beyond all boundaries and extends far into the horizon of creativity. Directing the most controversial documentary of the year, Widad Shafakoj has proved herself to be an exceptionally talented film maker, an amazingly skilled story teller, but most of all, an extremely humane being.
ID 000 is a documentary that unveils the stories of Jordanian orphans, and boldly highlights the issues of our society.
Prohibited from being publicized out in the open, a target of Al Jazeerah channel, and a feared topic to talk about, for months, ID 000 remained a secret documentary that only few knew about. Only recently, His highness Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein made it possible for the screening of ID 000 to take place at the Royal Film Commission.
This is Widad Shafakoj, creative director of ID 000.
Name: Widad Shafakoj
Birthday: October 4th, 1985
Interests: Film, Music, Traveling
Profession: Film maker / Interior designer
Did you have any past experiences acting or directing before you studied film making?
Yes, I acted in many TVCs and various foreign and local productions. I never directed but I did make amateur films with my friends and family which could be considered as comedic sketches rather than actual films, but It wasn’t till I got into film school where I learnt the real craft of directing, even though my work experience was always in the film industry.
When did you realize film directing was your true calling?
I’ve always wanted to become a film maker; and it was my interior design degree that actually helped me do that.
I worked in the art department of a British production which was the first film I ever worked in, this led to acting, and I knew I was destined to remain in the industry.
What is Film Making to you?
Film making is a creative business, and it’s entertaining as much as it is educational, you can send out messages to the audience, inspire and influence them though film. To me it is the best way to visualize everything, from emotions to music, The sky is the limit to what you can achieve in film.
Do you feel directing brings out all the potential you have inside, or is there more?
Sometimes in film, actors become directors, directors become producers, and it’s like an ongoing cycle, nobody settles for one thing, and although i think directing brings out the most I have in me, I believe there should always be more, and I’d like to think of myself as someone who always has more to offer.
How did you come up with the idea for the documentary ID 000?
It was very random, I had met with an old friend who works with orphans, especially orphans above the age of 18, and when she started telling me about their stories and how she was working on a project just to help them, I thought maybe we should too, and since we had a documentary project at the time, I talked to my partners in the project David Deir and Yazan Hazeem and we thought the timing couldn’t have been better for it!
How difficult was it talking about such a controversial subject, and were you able to document everything you wanted the world to see, or did parts of the story remain concealed behind solid walls?
Since the subject was very interesting we didn’t mind the difficulty of working on it, or the trouble we got in because of it. The only hard part had to be when we had to cut down 12 hours of footage to 17 minutes, it took a lot of work and editing. That said, many parts and many stories were left unmentioned. It is unfortunate we didn’t have more time to expose more stories.
Were the orphans willing to talk? Or was it hard to bring their stories out?
Some of them were shy at the beginning, and wouldn’t speak right away but after they got to know us a bit better they became eager to talk and tell their stories, they were always ready on time, they had endless stories, some skipped work to be with us, I think they looked at us as their saviors, and I’d like to believe we helped in the way they expected.
In the documentary, the orphans talk about the difficulties they face due to the way the community looks at them. In what direction was your message headed?
I think of this documentary as an eye opener, it introduces various subjects that have probably never been talked about, we as the film makers of this project have never heard of some of the subjects until we were actually filming the documentary. The main point was to spread awareness and let people know what goes on behind closed doors.
Do you feel you were able to convey that message well?
From the reviews I got, and the interest I have noticed from the people who have seen it, I believe so! People are asking for a second screening which I hope will be happening soon, and all this goes to show that people are reacting positively to it.
What traces did ID 000 leave inside you as a person?
It kind of showed me that I am capable of many things, I have not expected this kind of success for ID 000, but now that I see what has come out of it, it makes me proud to be involved in it. As for the stories I have had to witness and face, you can say I’m thankful for a life I once took for granted, and I’m definitely a gutsier person.
Having had your first screening for ID 000 and seen people’s reactions, would you change anything at all about the documentary if you could go back in time?
Not at all, I think changing it wouldn’t make it what it is today. If anything, I take advice and information into consideration for future projects, and see how I progress from one project to another.
The undeniably powerful start you’ve had as a director allows for very high expectations of you. Do you feel you still have something more to offer?
I feel like I do, definitely, I’m still young, and the world will never run out of good stories to make movies about. A lifetime is never enough to what one can accomplish, and I’d like to accomplish as much as I possibly can!
Where do you see yourself in the future?
I definitely see myself in the film business, i am always going to be looking for more controversial subjects to document, I want to be making more movies, maybe acting too, and I’d also like to study more about film making, for there’s always room to learn.