P I G E O N S

 

Jeddah is full of areas where flocks of pigeons conglomerate on bird feed left by generous pigeon feeders who ritually engage in satisfying their hunger. Especially on the corniche, the pigeons meet daily to feed, and you can see children joyously run through them watching them fly away at their feet. The pigeon scenes in the film are very much inspired by my own experience in finding solace in Saudi as an expatriate national coming back to his homeland.

 

Growing up in Europe, I would visit Saudi yearly, however, did not enjoy staying for long periods of time for various reasons, particularly not being able to enjoy basic freedoms I normally would be able to in the cities I grew up in. Over the past few years, I have been spending longer periods of time in Saudi, especially for work. One day I took a walk on the corniche and met a pigeon feeder for the first time at dawn. I walked passed him as I saw hundreds of pigeons gathering at his feet as he fed them. I almost let the moment pass me by, when he noticed my hesitation in walking away and called me over. We struck up a long movie-esque stereotypical “old man and his protege” conversation about life and all its glory for a good half hour.

Watching the pigeons and bonding with the old man was a moment that made me say to myself, “this place isn't so bad”. While he was telling me about his divorce, I selfishly couldn't help but think about how amazing it would be to film the pigeons flying in slow motion. The idea for the scene was engraved in my memory, waiting for the moment it would be incorporated into a film.

Once the idea for Precious started, I knew it was time to pull this scene out of the vault. I knew there couldn't be a more powerful image to bring the story full circle other than to see her play among the pigeons as a child and to see her revisit this area she used to play in as a woman who is forced to wear the Niqab.