Dania Bdeir’s short film Warsha has been the recipient of more than 60 awards since it premiered at Sundance earlier this year, including that fest’s Best Short Film and the Lebanese writer-director was in Jeddah this week premiering the title at the second edition of the Red Sea International Film Festival this week.
Bdeir came into Deadline’s Red Sea Studio to talk about the project, which has qualified for an Oscar. It’s about a Syrian builder in Beirut who decides to replace a colleague who died in an accident in a towering, hazardous crane. Dozens of meters above the city, away from prying eyes, he experiences the freedom no one grants him elsewhere.
“We see cranes all of the time but we never really think of that person inhabiting that little cabin and that person is operating this huge machine and can see the world but no one can see him,” said Bdeir.
She noted that crane operators in Lebanon are “usually Syrian and undocumented and underpaid,” which is where she drew inspiration for her lead character. “There was definitely always a segregation between the workers and the bosses and engineers.”
Having briefed her camera operator about the shot she needed up the crane, when he approached the ladder and looked up at the crane cabin, Bdeir said he handed her the camera and said, “Listen, I have kids. Good luck, I hope you get what you need.”
Bdeir then had to brave the shot herself to get what she needed. “Even though I’m not someone who is afraid of heights – I seek them out, I do sky-diving and bungee-jumping – but in that moment in the ladder, I got vertigo.”
The film is playing in the Red Sea: Shorts Competition this week. Check out the video above.