Dearth in Venice: the premiere of “The Island”

18 Jul
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Danish Wakeel with his girl-next-door from his short film, The Island

You need bags of self-belief to make a film. But where does self-belief end and hubris begin? The Island, which proudly announces it is “A Film By Danish Wakeel”, even though two lesser mortals are credited with script-writing and directing, may cross that line.

An early teaser proclaimed “Brace yourself… IT’S HAPPENING… 2013”. The tagline says the film is “inspired by the Italian cornucopia supervened by the heritage and the avalanche of Venice”. That’s not a synopsis. It’s more a series of grandiose words connected at random, as though Wakeel, a fashion designer and model whom I met at the London Film Entrepreneurs night, had gone into a wardrobe of words and thrown together an outfit blindfolded.

The Island had a much-touted red-carpet Leicester Square premiere last week, hosted by the London Model Academy – at Ruby Blue nightclub. The 18-minute film was due to start at 9pm, but with red-carpet interviews it ran late, as premieres often will, and didn’t get going, finally, until 9.45… by which time I had to leave. Though judging from the first few minutes, this didn’t feel like a tragedy.

Danish Wakeel is an absurdly handsome man: gigantic pecs, pouty lips, narrowed eyes, enviably thick hair, permanent serious-face. You could picture him as a film star, if not, perhaps, a great auteur. To him, it probably makes sense that his character could sashay into a masked ball, sit down on his own, and so impress two giggly babes with his sheer radiant masculinity that they would come over to invite him wordlessly to a bed-based private view of their lingerie collection. But this audience member found it harder to suspend disbelief. And that’s as far as I got.

Viewing the rest of the film on YouTube is no more enlightening. Wakeel’s character has a beautiful female neighbour, who complains about the noise from his techno-soundtracked orgies. (The following night he is joined by a third girl; how the five of them – I am including Wakeel’s ego – all fit in one bed I don’t know.) However, his pouty lips and narrowed eyes soon win her over.

Her mother is being unfaithful to her father; her father has a gun. But even this creates no sense of drama, and an absurd amount of dialogue takes place one-sidedly, on the phone. No editor is listed in the credits, and it shows. The interiors could be anywhere, and no one speaks Italian, so any connection with Venice aside from a travel montage at the start is unclear; nor, for that matter, with cornucopias and avalanches.

And then the film just… stops. There are apparently another two parts of this oeuvre to come. Ye gods.

Kudos to Wakeel, however, for making a film at all; it is a ridiculously difficult thing to do. Perhaps the ensuing parts will gain from the experience of making the first – a professional editor might be a good start. And one interesting insight comes out of it, at least: who knew Zoolander was such a well-observed documentary?

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