THE FALCONER is a missing voice in the complex conversation between East and West. It captures the nuance and beauty of the Middle East in the same way SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE captured the wild, untamed vibrancy of the back streets of India.
Instead of the stark black-and-white, us-versus-them narrative often propagated by the media, we want to create a rich palette of real people, challenges, and opportunities to ignite conversation and engage audiences from all backgrounds. It is a story about female-empowerment, rising above stereotypes, and finding one’s way in an increasingly homogenized world. To do this, each of our characters has to be fully realized, with the freedom to be grey or complex – as in real life.
YEMEN is the real-life setting for THE FALCONER. This film captures another side of the Yemen country seldom seen by outsiders — the warm-hearted people, the fierce courage, and rich culture. The landscape is sprawling and varied — from mountains and high deserts, to terraced farmland and azure seas. Often deeply misunderstood by the outside world, Yemen is the perfect backdrop to a timeless coming-of- age story that straddles the divide between East and West.
Although Yemen is traditionally a marginalized and highly politicized country, this is not a film about social and political issues. Instead, THE FALCONER is everything you wouldn’t expect from a film that takes place in the most impoverished country in the Middle East: it is high- energy, relatable, and while painful at times, still humorous. From chaotic scenes of skateboarding through the streets of the ancient city of Sana’a, to releasing 347 bright green chameleons in the middle of an empty desert, this film embodies the spirit of being a teenager, against a backdrop of ancient vistas.
Cai is western, blonde, and hopeful. Tariq and Alia are torn between two worlds. But all three are connected by their love for each other - as well as the endangered animals they eventually have to sacrifice. Co-Writer/Co-Director, Adam Sjoberg, met Tarim Kennedy, the real-life Cai, when he was in Yemen shooting the documentary SHAKE THE DUST. It was the eve of the Yemen spring. Tarim and his best friend, Khaled, were in the midst of their adolescent scheme to steal animals from the zoo and sell them to raise money for Khaled’s sister’s divorce. Co- Writer/Co-Director, Seanne Winslow, grew up in Germany, United Kingdom and the Middle East and is in many ways as much of a global mutt as Cai is.
Tonally, this film walks the knife’s edge between two points – a fable-like friendship and coming-of-age story in which the audience gets to re- live what it was like to be 16-years-old and in love, mid-adventure, the world at your feet; and at the same time, we are committed to not shying away from the tragedy of Alia’s marriage and Tariq’s ultimate sacrifice. We have and will continue to struggle to bring the real story to life on the page in a way that does justice to the complexity of the world and characters. The real-life story is epic and at times feels larger than life. And in telling it, we run the risk of getting lost in the excitement of it instead of simply honoring these characters’ journeys. We want to look at every scene to see where we have gone big and broad instead of focused and intimate. We are committed to doing the honest work of allowing each character to breathe and come to life, with all their flaws and complexity. To do this we need to be more judicious. This is the kind of refinement that only happens within artistic community, being held accountable to take risks, and being pushed out of one’s comfort zones.
There is no other story we feel more compelled to tell than the story of these three friends who are willing to risk everything for each other. None of them are perfect. But each of them is passionate, and in their uniqueness they embody something more universal.