Updated: Jun 5, 2020
A Serial Storyteller
In these trying times where the only subject people think is the coronavirus, keeping them busy from the moment they wake up to the moment they sleep, the world needs that silver lining (or various ones at that) that makes things feel better and more hopeful.
No matter what happens, we need to remain open to what makes us happy and dance with life and adapt to hardships, which only make us stronger.
Today a thread of the silver lining lies in the work of the brilliant Motaz Mater. He is the author of two inspiring novels, the director of many short and feature films, and the founder of Hakawaty.
Matar is a Jordanian filmmaker, author and educator; but his magic lies in his storytelling, and we got to peek at his talent through a personal interview (lucky!) So, let us have a look, shall we?
Q 1 : When people ask you, “Who’s Motaz?” what do you tell them?
Well, I am a storyteller but I’m trying to find ways to invent and reinvent myself. I teach, I direct. But at the core of everything I do is telling stories: storytelling is always the main driving force behind everything I do.
Q 2 : Who’s your inspiration and why?
Books of all kinds inspire me and of course the authors of these books, any person who can teach me one thing “a simple thing” becomes an inspiration to me.
Q 3 : What is your dream job?
To continue to tell stories and making a living out of it, ‘a simple way of living’.
Q 4 : You are an award-winning director, but you switched to a digital storyteller, how did that happen and why?
I don’t think I can say I changed my direction much. Like I said earlier, it’s all about focusing on telling stories. The medium might have changed. It is always evolving, changing. But the core remains the same.
Q 5 : Do you still want to make films?
I’ve always been passionate about films and making them. I’m currently developing a feature film project and several other media projects. Film will always be my inception and what started it all, it will never lose its charm, whether I continue to make films as a director, writer, producer, or whatever my role might be.
Q 6 : As an aspiring entrepreneur, how do you describe your journey so far?
It has been great. I’m learning a lot. I’m taking those experiences and adding them to my pool of knowledge. I think entrepreneurship is not just about starting businesses, it’s a way of life. Everything that we do can be entrepreneurial and the most important essential aspect is the friendships we make along the way.
Q 7 : In regards to the Hakawaty application, how did the idea come to fruition?
I’ve been obsessed with telling stories for the Arabic speaking world, trying to find ways to improve the ways stories are told and enhance them. I had several ideas I was working on, nothing serious at that time, and when I stumbled upon chat-fiction I was light struck. I somehow realized that this is where the future is heading: using technology for art, for serving a purpose, and advancing the narrative.
Q 8 : Can you tell us more about Hakawaty?
Hakawaty is a chat-fiction based mobile application, the first of its kind in the Arabic speaking world. What is chat fiction? It’s a way of telling stories through chat messages allowing the user to eavesdrop on a conversation, so to speak, while engaging in the stories through tapping on the screen and reading those messages between two people chatting together or a group of people.
Q 9 : From your experience, what advice would you like to give our readers?
Do what you love, and don’t be afraid to take a step forward. There will always be failures, but those failures are about seeking the right path and discovering your passion in what you do.
Q 10 : What do you think of the current situation of the Arabic culture and its impact on people?
I think culture is a big word. First, we need to ask what culture is, and what defines it. So in my opinion; culture is everything surrounding our daily life from attitudes, music, art, news, literature, movies, etc…, the combination of which is what creates culture. I think in the Arabic speaking world, we are lacking what feeds into this culture. I think we need more music, artists, influencers, scientific inventors and inventions, I mean in the real sense, not just the polished glamorous and mostly fake images published on social media and other platforms. To define our culture in the Arabic speaking world, we need to focus on what makes our culture: the positive stuff, the big stuff, not the gossipy stuff we are exposed to on a daily basis. In short, it’s about focusing on value, not materialistic things, meaning, not making money and other worldly matters that don’t have feed into our culture.
Q 11 : What change would you like to see in the Arabic culture and how would it be implemented?
I would like to see more educated people, not only those with degrees, real education. Education that comes from life and books and movies and the content. Education that comes from having skin in the game and hard work. Education that shows we have a real purpose. I think we’re all fed up in the Arab world with being fragmented and feeling like outcasts inside and outside. We need to belong somewhere and to each other. We have a lot in common like language and religion and background. We need to focus on what brings us together, not what pushes us away from each other. We have to open our eyes to what we have, not to what we don’t.
Q 12 : If you are allowed to address the world, what would you say?
I’m always trying to reach out to as many people as possible through the stories I’m telling. I think the best way to talk to the world is from a place of hope. I know it’s very hard to address everyone in the world. That’s not possible. But I think in my journey I would like to start somewhere: that somewhere is stories, and I always feel at home with that.
What do you think, dear reader? We hope that this inspires you to keep your chin up. If you would like to know more about Motaz, here is the link to his website motazhmatar.com
The world is in peril nowadays and yet this is still a chance to heed the words of Motaz and follow our passion during home quarantine and curfew. Now is the time to write that story, play that music and pain that picture that you never had the time for. Stay creative and stay safe.
Interviewed by Abdullah Al Habahbeh
Edited by Bahaa Alnawas