Film Notes: Louder, Directed and Written by Jacques Brown

Louder_film poster.jpg

On April 28, a film called Louder, written and directed by Jacques Brown premiered at Roxy Cinemas (City Walk) in Dubai. I found out about the film because I saw it listed on the cinema’s website. I had never heard of it, and when I watched the trailer and found out it’s a film made in Dubai, I knew I had to see it. I bought two front row tickets (and the last two available seats) to see it with a friend.

This was the synopsis on Roxy’s website:

Following a tragic event, self made millionaire Killian takes a vow of silence which is disrupted by 12-year-old Zoe. She forces her way into his silent world with her larger than life persona while struggling to find her own voice in a world dominated by her mother’s fame.

The trailer made me go with very low expectations, especially when I saw it starring radio presenter Kris Fade who has a huge following in Dubai, but I, for one am not a fan of his personal brand.

My friend and I turned up and found a red carpet with a lot of dressed up men and women. We then realised there was one screening for the premiere with the cast, crew and invited guests, and a separate screening for the audience who paid to see the film or who didn’t get an invitation to be in the other cinema hall.

I told my friend I bet we’re the only two attending that have no assication with film or crew, and after seeing the crowd that evening I’m certain we were.

Watching the film was an experience. To put it bluntly, it was a mess.

Here’s a rundown. I’ve avoided spoilers, if you can call it that for a film like this.

Killian (Casey Shannon) is a self-made millionaire, an Irish man in Dubai who appears to be uncomfortable around women, and thinks any woman that shows interest in him is after his money. When he’s on a date in a restaurant, he books the entire restaurant to have it for himself. The only woman he communicates with regularly is his personal assistant Katya (Hanna Liatsko) who basically manages all his affairs. Killian’s mother is American and smokes cigars, and Danny (Kris Fade) is his best friend and business partner with a party animal/enjoy life persona.

We have scenes of Killian and Danny playing basketball, we see scenes set on yachts, in restaurants and nightclubs. The locations in the film include BOA Nightclub, Madinat Theatre, La Boheme and Trianon restaurants. We see the occasional business meeting (one involves a deal in London which got mentioned a few times but never got resolved) - all presented with wooden dialogue and acting, especially Kris Fade who’s basically on the screen as Kris Fade.

In another part of Dubai (or Fujairah, based on the car license plate in one of the scenes) we are introduced to Stella (Suzie Demetri-Robertson, Executive Producer of the film, also model and ‘Momager’ according to her Instagram account), a glamorous and famous actress rejecting scripts she’s not happy with, her daughter Zoe (Shantilly-Rose Demetri-Robertson, real life daughter of Suzie), and Stella’s best friend who is always lounging by the pool drinking (Angelica Bridges, who appeared in Mystery Men, Mortal Kombat: Conquest, Baywatch).

The film takes a turn after Killian goes on a silent retreat on Bani Yas Island in Abu Dhabi after something bad happens to his friend. Just as he does with the restaurants he visits, he books the entire resort for himself. But, he is still communicating with Katya who is also on the island, by writing notes on paper.

Stella and her daughter drive to the same resort for a break. When the receptionist tells her the resort is full, Stella pulls a ‘don’t you know who I am’ attitude and ends up staying on the resort.

To keep these two guests apart we are introduced to 3 staff members who seem to be the only staff working on the resort.

Eventually paths are crossed, there’s a bit of comedy, a bit of romance, a few mishaps and life changing realisations. But all of this is done with more wooden acting and dialogue, bad sound design, scenes just jumping from one to the next with no establishing shots or effective editing. At times I was lost as certain plot lines just didn’t make any sense. It’s important to note that most of the cast are non-professional actors, and perhaps the only standout is Shantilly-Rose Demetri-Robertson who has potential if she pursues a serious acting career and a shorter name.

The film ends with the director on-screen saying this film was made with a crew of 6, with zero budget, and if you're passionate about what you do and if you believe in yourself, anything is possible. Was it an apology for how the film turned out or an earnest message about following your dreams?

Then the end credits roll with bloopers from the film shoot.

After telling a couple of other friends about Louder, they reacted by saying it is Dubai’s version of The Room. I said it does indeed belong in that category of films. And the more I think about it, the more I agree this could be our local version of Tommy Wiseau’s film.

Louder is Jacques Brown’s first feature film and it showed (he directed and produced a couple of short films according to his page on IMdb). But completing a film, no matter how it turns out, is an achievement in itself, especially if it is independently made.

Whilst researching the film after seeing it, I kept coming across this piece of information that appears repeatedly every time the film is discussed/mentioned.

Louder is an unfunded independent film produced and shot in the UAE with a crew of 6 people, filmed over 27 days in 3 cities with actors from 29 different countries.

Considering the state of recent film production in the UAE, where there seems to be support for a certain brand of film, an “Emirati” film (Hajwala, Hajwala 2 Camera, Shabab Shehab, Safar Edtirari, Birth to name a few recent films), I wonder where does a film like Louder fit in this narrative.

The few films by Emirati filmmakers that get released here receive what appears to be the obligatory support, praise and media coverage minus any meaningful critical assessment.

Can a film like Louder that’s made outside “the system” be seen by a wider audience? As far as I know, the film doesn’t have a distributor. It received media coverage (minus the critical assessment) during the week it got shown (April 28 in Roxy Cinemas and on May 5 for a special screening in Anantara Sir Bani Yas Island Resorts where it was filmed) but beyond that, what’s next for a film like this here?

Can a film like Louder be considered an “Emirati” film? The answer should be yes. It has all the ingredients that makes it a typical film about people living Dubai. In the film we find out Killian and Danny met in Australia and eventually decided to move to Dubai to set up a business. Their business involves investment and construction. We see fancy cars, late nightclubs, characters of different nationalities, the word “yalla” gets thrown in. A lot of it ticks the boxes when it comes to similar characters in Dubai.

Louder has many faults, and deep down, it has themes of loneliness, mistrust and finding connections. An experienced film writer/director would’ve been able to present these themes without being overshadowed by a combination of a weak plot and script, and inexperienced actors.

I do appreciate the efforts gone into the making of the film, and will strongly stand behind it as a UAE film. I do hope it will be included in any future discussions about the UAE film industry and films made here. As a case study and as part of UAE’s film history.

Jacques Brown is already working on his next project, a heist film called Run Yalla Run.