Credible Fear is a short film about a young Yemeni woman, Nabila whose future hangs in the balance as she awaits the outcome of her refugee status determination case.
In the wake of the tragic terrorist attacks of September 11th a small, obscure bureaucracy called the Department of Paranoia came into being. The DoP is tasked to think creatively and investigate wild conspiracies and other unexplained phenomena. The short-form digital series follows the work and lives of four agents based in the New York regional office of the DoP. The series is a pitch-dark satire placing a critical eye on American angst and hyper-vigilance against those considered “other” in the post-September 11th world.
Digital Series Premise and Tone
Department of Paranoia is set in current day New York City. In the DoP New York Field office four agents are responsible for investigating calls of suspicious activity. The agents’ role is to determine the validity of these reports and remain responsive to all conspiracy theories, no matter how outlandish.
The existence of the Department of Paranoia is the central farcical aspect of the story. DoP agents are depicted as real with real-world problems and do not see their work as absurd even while they sometimes have disdain for the people who call them. Other federal agencies, especially the FBI, look down on the DoP. They view the department and its agents as a joke and often refer cases they would otherwise dismiss, just to mess with the DoP’s agents.
Characters and Story Arcs
In the first season, we are introduced to the four agents of the DoP’s New York City office: Agent Frida Amezquita, mid-thirties, Type A, who grew up in a Dominican family in Washington Heights, and currently lives in the Bronx. She is in peak shape, mentally and physically. Amezquita is self-serious as she strives to always be the best amongst her peers. She views the DoP as a stepping-stone to something bigger—-like the FBI. Agent Michela Gurley, an African American woman in her mid-thirties, is the complete opposite of Amezquita. Gurley is laid back, has incredible improvisational skills, and is able to adapt as the situation requires. She is married to her partner Natalie, and lives in Brooklyn. Agent Tomas Daffodil is a forty-ish African American man. He often uses humor to diffuse tense situations. He generally goes with the flow to avoid conflict. He is also struggling with the aftermath of a failed marriage. Agent Tawfiq Sameer is in his early thirties. He is Muslim and is of South Asian extraction. Sameer does not trust government institutions or commercial ones. He goes to extremes to make sure that his digital footprint is non-existent. He encrypts all of his communication technology, and uses a flip phone. Like Agent Daffodil, Sameer lives in Queens.
In the first season we see the agents grapple with several cases, ranging from suspected ISIS militants being smuggled across the U.S.-Mexico border in vending machines, to a torrent of phone calls from Connecticut residents who panic upon seeing black people in their neighborhood. The interpersonal relationships among the four main characters form the main throughline of the season. Agent Frida Amezquita has applied to the FBI, a secret she withholds from some of her colleagues and her supervisor. Agent Michela Gurley’s wife Natalie wants to start a family; Gurley, however, only wants a dog. Agent Tomas Daffodil is starting to date after his divorce is finalized. He uses an unusual form of therapy to seek support through the transition. Agent Tawfiq Sameer meets a woman in a Transhumanist Support Group who claims to be a time traveler. Occasionally, JBaab, the agents’ Washington, DC-based supervisor and part-time singer, visits to keep an eye on their work and tell stories of his adventures on the high seas.
The Department of Paranoia is a character-driven series; the first season builds the foundation of the four personalities of the department and how their personal and work lives intersect.
Experimental short film about lovers drifting apart.
A snippet of this beautiful country from a recent trip.
2015 (:33) spot
2013 (3m) video travelogue of instanbul, turkey.
experimental short 2013 (4.3m)
IN A STATE is an experimental Japanese butoh dance piece.
ad campaign (2.4m)
A beautiful struggle ad spot for Mirame Swimwear starring designer Melinda Huff
Client: Mirame Swimwear
Live Recording 2014 (17m)
Client: Adam Wesley Brown and Bowery Poetry
short experimental (3m)
Hakawati (ḥakawātī) is Arabic for storyteller, or teller of tales.
short film 2015 (32m)
Three years after her partner’s untimely death, Dr. Lena Thierry, a neuroengineer, has been unable to move on. After years of research and development, she attempts to upload his consciousness into a computer software program.
Grief is one of the hardest human emotions to cope with, and certainly a difficult emotion to bring forward in a film. But director and writer Malik Isasis, was able to portray the complicated facet of grief, in this marvelous softened short film; Lena’s Complicated Machine.
"The idea came from a rough short script that I had written a couple of years ago about a woman who suffers from complicated grief (which is grief/depression lasting longer than two years; I am a clinical social worker in addition to being a filmmaker). I wanted to add a twist to the story by having a protagonist who would be in a position to do something about the loss. The consequences of her hubris in hacking her partner’s memories was an interesting theme to explore, in terms of how it elevates her professionally while hurting her personally."
The film’s most successful asset is its subtlety of the science fiction aspect. With a touch neurological fiction, Malik doesn’t focus the film around the high tech gadgets and hologram screens, as all those make brief and essential appearances in the film, they are simply mere structural supports for the story. Letting us keep focus on the more psychological aspect of things.
"While LCM is a science-fiction film, it is really a story about loss and remembering someone you love. As I was writing the story, I wondered whether Lena’s grieving is extended by the brain emulation technology that she develops, rather than helping her move forward, and what that means for development of such technologies."
Like anyone else, we get scared when we see a 30 minute film online, but boy do we not regret giving that half hour away for Lena. The film gives itself a smooth momentum and a marvelous transition from dreamy to realistic keeps your mind running with it at all times.
"The reason it runs a bit longer than the average short is because I wanted it to feel like a complete story, rather than an idea of one."
The structurally balanced film starts from its ambitious script and strong directing, but holds itself up through the film with the convincing and magnificent acting, its immersive soundtrack and gracious cinematography.
Bashir Hamid //Visual Effects
Andrew Pomeroy //Sound Design/Editor
Miki Benyamini //Sound Recordist
Malik Isasis //writer/director/producer
Malik Isasis //editor/cinematographer
Tiffany De Mott //titles/Visual Effects Consultant
Fantastic Creations //Props
2010 short film (10m)
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Tigist Selam as Fatima
experimental project (3.5m)
is a project that was a response to the Trayvon Martin verdict and the media portrayal of African Americans.
Client//New York Department of Education
Client: Mirame Swimwear
Role: Photography, Editor, Director
video travelogue of Morocco
Client//World of Children Award
2013 Short Documentary (12m)
çöp(m)adam is the story of a co-operative of women in a seaside village in Turkey who take throwaway materials and transform them into beautiful reusable items.
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Client: New York Department of Education
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After three years, a couple dissolve their relationship.
patricia gil de rubio
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Client: LaMont Hamilton
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two women dissolve their relationship against a Manhattan backdrop.