Friday, 3 October 2008

THE SHIFT (excerpt)

( 90 script pg. for 104 comics pg.)

This is a script based on an idea that Luís Gurriana gave me. Like in BODY COUNT, the idea here is to use the background between the panels, the gutters, as the unconscious whilst the panels themselves will be the conscious.

What will happen towards the end is that there will be a shift. The main character’s conscious mind will split to the gutter and the panels will become the unconscious.
The idea here is to represent the fall from grace, the process that leads from sanity to insanity, something that, from the viewpoint of the outside world is terrible but, from the perspective of the individual, might actually be a good solution - and the only way of staying alive and coping with a demolishing reality.

This is a girl that saw her family be blow to bits in an American attack during the Gulf War (1991). In January 1991 she’s living with her parents on the outskirts of Baghdad when a missile destroys the house and her family. She’s trapped with their remains (inside the wreckage of their house) for days. Hungry and thirsty and with all that horror surrounding her, she’s traumatized for life. Having no family or possessions or any sort of support she starts fending for herself in any way possible.

Now (2003/2004), as a young woman, she works in a clothes factory in Fallujah (some 40 miles west of Baghdad, Iraq), sowing clothes for the Americans. She dies on the onset of Operation Phantom Fury in November 2004.

The pressure from work and the growing knowledge of the inescapability of her situation cause a mental collapse and she goes insane. Yet, inside her mind things finally seem peaceful. Now that her unconscious has taken over everything, she can finally rest. Now that the ghosts of the past have come out to play there’s nothing else to fear. This is when she discovers that she is no longer afraid to die. That in actual fact she desired it for most of her life. Her conscious mind has split from the rest of her, from her body. Her life is a film and she’s no longer particularly worried about endings and outcomes.

Shahidah’s Unconscious is divided in two: as a child and as an adult. Both to be handwritten and italicised. The conscious is not handwritten and not italicised. Hopefully this will give the reader a clearler perception of what we’re aiming for. I have kept Shahidah’s Child Unconscious italicised for greater clarity while reading the script.

February 1991. Exterior Baghdad outskirts. Baghdad is under attack by the Americans. There’s wrecked buildings everywhere, smoke billowing and explosions in the distance.
Afternoon. Full shot. Harith, a man in robes, comes towards us, walking briskly away from a nearby group of people: Nadhir, Kadar, Suhaim, Amir, Mirah, Alima, Farooq and three small children (1, 3 and 6). The group continues moving towards a stationed battered jeep next to a house heavily damaged by the attack. Mirah, also turned to us, cries for Harith.

Leave him. Stubborn old mules always manage to catch up.


Harith’s POV. As he looks down. Harith’s shadow over the debris as he walks. There’s smoking bits of masonry and broken walls.

Harith’s POV. Looking straight ahead. The collapsed entrance/porch outside Shahidah’s house. Harith’s shadow over the debris as he moves further some more. There’s no way anyone could get into that house anymore. Harith aims at the end of the broken wall to his left.

Harith’s POV. Harith’s shadow over the debris. Harith looks straight ahead, having turned 90 degrees left after the wall. We see the huge wreckage of Shahidah’s house. Harith urinates and checks the surroundings. We are seeing even more blown up, smoking houses than before. The centre of Baghdad is somewhere ahead of us.

Full shot. Next to Harith. He’s crouching to defecate. There’s a puddle of urine scurrying away from sight. His face strains a bit. He looks away to left of panel, trying to see if anyone’s coming this way.

(faded, out of shot, bottom right side of panel)

Mid shot. Side shot. Harith on his knees in panic, trousers half pulled up, looks around towards the rubble all over the place.

Hello?! Hello?!

Close up. Besides Harith. He leans into the wreckage, trying to listen. One hand grabbing an edge of fallen masonry for support, bits of mortar coming off. Harith’s expression is even tenser now. He’s about to get up.

(out of shot)

Mid shot. Behind Harith. Harith turns his head around the wall, gesticulating in the groups direction, screaming for help. They’re huddled around the jeep. Nadhir is the one closest to us, a bit away from the group, staking out behind some rubble. The hood of the battered jeep is popped open and Amir and Kadar are bent over it.

NADHIR! QUICK! Everyone!

Full shot. Down shot. Closer to Harith. Harith digs frantically through the debris dead centre in the wreckage. Behind him Nadhir runs towards Harith, leaving his spot behind.

(out of shot)
Help. Please.

We’re coming! We’re coming!





March 2003. Establishing shot. Inside the clothes factory as the women work. Afternoon. It rains in half a dozen places through holes in the ceiling. No one seems to be paying attention to it.

Long shot. We can see a few of the women getting wet as the rain falls. Shahidah is one of them. She works sowing Made In USA labels to the inner lining of women’s underwear. The water is nonetheless prevented from hitting the production line via boards and bits of plastic hanging in various places. Shahidah sits by a table that she shares with Karam. On either side of the table there are 2 buckets. One for the underwear still needing labels to be sown, the other for the completed pieces.

Pull in on Shahidah’s face as sunlight hits her dripping cheeks. She looks up.

Pull back behind her to show her gazing upwards as sunlight filters through the holes in the ceiling.

Go back to the establishing shot. Now, instead of rain we have sunlight pouring in. Giving us a feeling of hope. Shahidah has returned back to work

Close up on Shahidah’s hands as she drops a completed piece on the left bucket.

They never leave me.
The images.
They fill my dreams. My ever waking moment.
I see them.
Inside my mind. Inside my body.
All I feel is death. No longer thinking “why am I alive?”

This must be an illusion.

Though there’s no escape.

Close up on a woman working next to Shahidah. Side shot. As the woman leans over her sowing.

Mum, your face.

Close up on a guard looking suspiciously at Shahidah while she works. Behind the guard and to his side. Overlooking the whole clothes assembly line.

Dad, your face.

Up shot, close to Shahidah. Distorting her and those around her as the rain falls. She removes a piece of underwear from her right side bucket.

My brother.

My sister.


Everything collapses.

From nowhere I am taken.

February 1991. Same up shot but now inside the wreckage of her parents house. There are no bodies in sight, but there is plenty of destruction.

I can see it all from the outside, inside, there and here, there is no difference. All time is an illusion that I try to make real to the cost of sanity. Of life. To no avail. I’m no longer here. No longer here. No longer here. I’ve never been. Never been alone.

Everything is still here. Every stone. Every corner of my mind. Spent that time there. All that time inside. The light, coming from above, never really touching my skin.

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