// shadow medium :: new york

Sahar al-Sawaf is an Iraqi filmmaker who was born in Saudi Arabia, grew up in Lebanon and Iraq, then escaped to California as a child, days before the Gulf War. Working in documentary and animation, she has traveled extensively throughout the Middle East with her sketchbook and camera in hand, chronicling the plight of refugees who have fled. Based in New York, she is presently directing her first animated feature film called Tigris.

instagram - Sahar al-Sawaf

Thomas Helman is a New York-based filmmaker, visual effects artist, sound designer and software developer who has exhibited internationally. His current work focuses primarily on the development of immersive 3D environments through non-traditional use of artificial intelligence software, (dis)embodiment, experimental image rendering, and spatial audio.


// cinematic work(s) :: currently in-production


Tigris - Animated Feature Film by Sahar al-Sawaf & Thomas Helman - shadowmedium.com

Tigris is set in a desolate, ruined landscape of a future Iraq and is animated from the perspective of an abandoned girl who confronts invading autonomous machines as she floats down the Tigris River.


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BIG MONEY is a grotesquely nostalgic, soft-focused portrait of Sin City (Las Vegas, Nevada). The disposable camera's cracked plastic lens algorithmically crawls along the infected, rotting track marks of a long-abandoned ghost buffet doomed to forever cannibalize itself, force-feeding upon its own expired empty promises of bottomless excess that gravitationally collapse in vanity toward an unreachable mirage of a non-existent oasis. Constructed from convolutional shrapnel shards and fractured fun-house mirror event-horizons of parasitic desires - the gapingly porous, radioactive surfaces self-indulgently traversed throughout BIG MONEY serve to sadistically reflect kaleidoscopic nightmares of discarded, sacharrin-sweet memories & amnesiac fever-visions ineffably transcribed, yet only partially-decrypted by double-plus-sized contortionists tightly bound with rigidly hard-coded constraints. Claustrophobically trapped within infinite error-states of perpetual decay, counterfeit currencies are flash-freezer-burned, then origami-folded into genetically-altered zombie processes run amok along labyrinthine lattice networks of despair. Long division by zero, return void.


// cinematic work(s) :: coming soon!

Shadow of Paradise

Shadow of Paradise is comprised of photographs and hand-painted 35mm film depicting my family who are alive, dead, or missing in Iraq. As an Iraqi immigrant displaced, and living in the United States, this film is dear to my heart as I come to terms with the country I grew up in being slowly eroded and redacted from history. Shadow of Paradise is a memento mori that captures the obscured image of my fading memories of loved ones, who are left with an uncertain and unstable future in Iraq. Now, thirty years after Operation Desert Storm, this film is at once a snapshot of past, present and future destruction.


// cinematic work(s) :: released

Um Abdullah

Um Abdullah is an animated documentary about an Iraqi refugee family living in Jordan. The film consists of personal interviews with a 28 year-old single mother, Um Abdullah and her five children dealing with the collateral effects of the ongoing conflicts in Iraq. Composed of live-action and animation, this film shows the intense internal states of mind that Iraqi refugees must now endure. Through the media, American audiences are fed images coming from the war front in Iraq, yet none paint a picture of what ordinary life is for an Iraqi. The film is a portrait of Um Abdullah through her children's drawings, hopes, and imaginations.


Uncle Ma'an

Uncle Ma'an is an experimental animated documentary about family living in the war-ravaged situation soon after the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Composed of graphic collages, the film is based on my memories of my uncle when I visited Iraq as a child. This film is a glimpse of Uncle Ma'an's daily life activities being surrounded by the tensions of war.


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