Pakistani-Canadian director Haya Waseem, who recently signed with Object & Animal for representation in the US and the UK, has already completed two excellent pieces of work for her new company. Both exhibit the former editor's storytelling skills, as does her debut feature 'Quickening' which was an official selection at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival.
A recent film for non-profit 'Working With Cancer' captures the agony faced by cancer sufferers who feel unable to reveal to their employers that they're unwell, for fear of losing their jobs. It's a heartbreaking scenario, and many directors would have been tempted to make the pathos unbearable, but Waseem's restraint is more powerful, as it captures both the plight of those caught in this invidious situation and the grimly purposeful way they hide their troubles. This approach ensures that we're paying attention when it's revealed that as many as 50% of those with cancer feel the need to conceal it from those they work with.
Waseem's film for 'Seize the Awkward' is a game of two halves. The first thirty-five seconds focuses on the subtle and not so subtle ways that those struggling with mental health are encouraged to keep quiet about what they're going through. The tropes are familiar but no less impactful for that, and what follows is refreshingly hopeful, as those struggling are offered support from friends.
Again, it's Waseem's restraint that makes this stand out... each gentle offer of help is a balm to the viewer not because it's going to wipe away their friend's despair, but because you feel you're witnessing an important step on the long journey to recovery.
Lovia Gyarkye's Hollywood Reporter review of 'Quickening' - Haya Waseem's debut feature - is not unalloyed in its praise, but it is nonetheless brimming with positivity, especially in respect of Waseem's innovative use of movement and light to convey to underline the protagonist's frame of mind.
According to Gyarkye, "Quickening is first and foremost a beautiful film. Working with cinematographer Christopher Lew, Waseem captures Sheila’s life and inner conflict with breathtaking elegance. When Sheila is in class, the camera closes in on her face, and her head looks almost like it’s floating. As she responds to her professor’s question, her classmates, like a Greek chorus, stare intently at her. The scene is mesmerizing, haunting even. In another sequence, this time a family gathering, Sheila sits in the center of a room that’s bathed in a golden hue. The harsh blue light from her phone, to which she’s permanently glued, illuminates her brown face. These moments successfully highlight the isolation Sheila feels from her peers and her community."
It's little wonder that Object & Animal's Morgan Clement is effusive about their latest signing: "There's a depth and maturity to Haya's filmmaking, but it somehow also feels fresh and youthful. The quality and consistency of her storytelling is equally magnetic from her commercial pieces to her long form narrative work. We are so excited about this journey with Haya."
Haya Waseem returns the compliment: "I am excited to be joining the roster at Object & Animal because the EPs are true champions of great work and great talent. It's inspiring to be surrounded by strong creatives, in a supportive environment. I can't wait to share our work and keep building a bold vision for the future together."
These sentiments mirror the last line of Lovia Gyarkye's review of 'Quickening': "Its narrative ambition and visual acuity make me excited to see what Waseem does next."
And we're inclined to agree.
To see more of Haya Wassem's work, visit https://objectanimal.com/author/haya-waseem/ and to investigate her availability, contact Dom Thomas on 07796 692300 or via email using email@example.com.