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Sam Kadi: Writer/Director of THE CITIZEN

February 25, 2013

DSC_19361Q: Tell us a little about the origins of THE CITIZEN, from concept to financing.

The CITIZEN is the story of an Arab immigrant who wins the American Green Card Lottery, arriving in New York City on Septempber 10, 2001. The main premise of this film is the American Dream and what it means to all of us citizens and immigrants. I am an immigrant who lived through the 9/11 attacks and have witnessed the challenges that immigrants have faced to reach their dreams. I felt that some of these inspiring stories needed to be told. THE CITIZEN is inspired by true stories, some I heard and others I witnessed.

The script took three years to write, working with two talented writers (Jazmen Brown and Sam Younis), and with my producing partner Chris Wyatt (Napoleon Dynamite), who championed the concept and came on board after I met him at a film festival in Los Angles back in 2009. Later, 3K Pictures along with our executive producer Ameer Kabour, who believed in the message, came through along with other private investors to make THE CITIZEN happen. I am fortunate to have worked with a passionate and powerful team who worked tirelessly to bring THE CITIZEN to life.

2Q: It appears that the film has been screened at other festivals; Do audiences respond differently at some festivals than they do at others? And do you ever stop being nervous?

The energy might be slightly different from one screening to another but overall the response has been amazing and the film very well received. It was refreshing to see such a great turnout for the screenings we had in the U.S and abroad. For instance, our world premiere at the Boston Film Festival was packed. Actually, THE CITIZEN came first in ticket sales in Boston and ended up winning the Mass Impact Award in addition to the Best Ensemble Cast Award. Also, when we had our International premiere at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, we were the only sold out screening at the 1200-seats theater (The Emirates Palace). We had a round of applause, a couple of times, during the screening which was awesome and very unique. What we found out during the Q&A after each screening is that people are really hungry for these types of inspiring films that build a better understanding of each other, because we intend to fear what we don’t know.

Can I stop being nervous? Simply NO, it is part of what we do. It gets better from one screening to another, but never goes away. Imagine this, years of hard work boils down to that night when your film comes on the big screen for people to judge. It is nerve wracking, isn’t it?

3Q: What was your best and/or worst experience while making THE CITIZEN?

Working on your first feature film with such amazing actors like Cary Elwes (The Princess Bride), William Atherton (Ghostbusters, Die Hard 1&2), Khaled Nabawy (Fair Game, Kingdom of Heaven), Agnes Bruckner (Blue Car, Murder by Numbers), has to be the best and most thrilling part of the process.

Instead of the worst, the most challenging experience has to be the pressure of time and money vs your creative vision. Hard decisions have to be made on set especially when you are the director and producer; vision vs dollars!

4Q: Festival audiences often have to make hard decisions about what to see, and the catalog descriptions sometimes run together. In your own words, why should people see your film?

If you ever doubted your ability to reach your dream and you are looking for an inspiration, “THE CITIZEN” would be the movie to watch. This film will remind you who you are, what you can do, and what this country is all about. Casey Buckley from Cinequest describes THE CITIZEN as “Energetic, fascinating, and leaves you proud and inspired to follow your dreams.” There is a reason why MercuryNews.com has chosen THE CITIZEN to be among the Top 10 Must See Movies at Cinequest (out of nearly 200 films) and why Variety Magazine has featured THE CITIZEN last October on its cover as top 20 titles at the American Film Market (out of almost 2,000 titles).

Looking forward to seeing you all at the Q&A after the screening to discuss the making of the film and to answer all your questions.

5Q: The current market for independent films is fractured, to put it lightly, and existing distribution models grow more ineffective with each passing moment. What are your hopes or plans for distribution?

Distribution for an independent film is definitely very challenging and the formula is constantly changing. We used a different model when we designed THE CITIZEN by presenting a very critical and timely story about the American Dream played by notable Hollywood actors. However, an acclaimed Egyptian actor Khaled Nabway led the film and his presence opened the international market for us. The demand of our fans to see this movie will be the main factor to make THE CITIZEN a success and we have high hopes in our fans (don’t forget to LIKE us @ facebook.com/thecitizenmovie).

Watch the trailer!

Buy tickets to see THE CITIZEN at Cinequest!

From → Interviews

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