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Thursday, June 20, 2013

BAMcinemaFest 2013: Q&A with Farihah Zaman

By Cynthia Lugo

Remote Area Medical is a film that captures, with brutal honesty, the sickening reality of uninsured patients who rely on a pop-up medical clinic set up annually at Bristol, Tennessee's NASCAR speedway. Filmed over a three-day period, the husband and wife team Jeff Reichert and Farihah Zaman chose to concentrate on the emotional stories of individuals who cannot afford basic medical and dental care. It is through these troubling stories that the larger problems of the American healthcare system come into laser-like focus.

Zaman was kind enough to answer a few questions for us in advance of the screening on Sunday, June 23 at 1:30pm. Directors Jeff Reichert and Farihah Zaman will participate in a Q&A.

1. When and how did you come to know you wanted to make movies?

Both of us had a love of cinema from a very young age. My parents were into old Bollywood movies, but I felt like my eyes were really opened when they showed my sisters and I the films of Satyajit Ray. Jeff’s parents owned a small art house movie theater when he was growing up, and from the tender age of eight he would help out, taking tickets and ushering in audiences.

Farihah Zaman & Jeff Reichert.
Photo by Robin Holland (
2. What would you be doing if you weren't involved in film?

The idea of not being involved in film in some way seems inconceivable! I did study music from the age of five up through college, and for a brief period of time seriously considered trying to put that training towards an opera career. Jeff, who grew up on Jersey Shore and was always a quick ride away from the beach, thinks he would like to work with sea creatures, as a marine biologist or working at an aquarium.

3. What are some of the challenges you faced while making your film, both artistic and logistical?

Event-based documentaries like Remote Area Medical have a unique set of challenges. We were managing seven crews because the clinic involves thousands of people, and we wanted to capture both the magnitude of the event and the intimacy of a few subjects’ day to day lives. Our days began at 4am and, after many sensitive, emotional discussions about health, struggling, and pride, ended about 18 hours later. Then there was the physical reality of filming in a massive Nascar race track! I think most of our crew went home feeling utterly exhausted but also very moved.

4. Talk about your favorite movie of the past two or three years.

Jeff has an unequivocal adoration of The Tree of Life, a hard choice to top since it is an epic movie about literally everything in the known universe. The film I’ve thought back on most over the last few years is Historias Extraordinarias, which is just so thrilling in its structural risks, it feels both meticulously planned and playfully chaotic at the same time.

5. Are you working on a new project now?

We started shooting a new documentary back in December 2012 called This Time Next Year, about the community living on Long Beach Island, a barrier island just 18 miles long and a few blocks wide off the coast of the Jersey Shore. We want to capture a year in the life of a socio-economically diverse, tourism-dependent seaside town hit hard by Hurricane Sandy. We’re also developing an alternative distribution platform called Remote Area Cinema, which, taking a page from the RAM organization’s book, will bring rural themed films to the communities reflected in them via a mobile roadshow.

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