The face of evil


Being a celebrity look-alike has its ups and downs. For Mounir, a fictional Saddam Hussein body double, the resemblance—right down to the mustache—brings plenty of grief. As the protagonist in Mr. Sadman, director Patrick Epino’s (AB’98) new feature film, the Iraqi gets attacked in the line of duty in 1990, loses his job, and then struggles to carve out a new life in Los Angeles. Unfortunately for Mounir, his personal upheaval occurs just as the real-life Saddam invades Kuwait, making the dictator the world’s most recognizable face of evil.

The dark comedy, coproduced by Harry Min Kang, AB’98, was screened April 9 at the Gene Siskel Film Center as part of its Asian American Showcase. Epino took some time for a quick e-mail interview with UChiBLOGo last week.

QandA_QDrop.jpgWhat was the inspiration for a film about a Saddam double?
QandA_ADrop.jpgI had this idea of taking this un-American face of evil and making him as American as possible. The film was a critique of something you see often in American or modern society: the dearth of soul, the alienation from the self, the lack of meaning, and how we comodify our lives and senses of self. ... If the main thing that gives you meaning in life, whether it be religion, art, philosophy, ideology, etc., is negated, somehow proven false or taken away from you, then how do you come back from that? How do you take bits and pieces of the world that is so readily available at our fingertips and create a new foundation to stand on? In Mounir's case, he goes to exaggerated extremes.
QandA_QDrop.jpgWhat was the shooting process like?
QandA_ADrop.jpgWe shot the film in 17 out of 19 days starting August 4, 2007. Slept about three hours a night. It was exhausting and intense because of the number of cast members [around 70-80] and locations. ... We had a few primary production locations, but also had to dress a lot of spaces to be somewhere else entirely. ... Combining all of those variables in a compressed amount of time can get gloriously interesting. Also, trying to shoot something that takes place in 1990 when Toyota Priuses are cruising by every 30 seconds is absurdly difficult.
QandA_QDrop.jpgWhat kind of budget did you have?
QandA_ADrop.jpgWe were an "ultra-low budget" production. It's a Screen Actors Guild term for anything under $200K, and we were definitely under that amount.
QandA_QDrop.jpgWhat’s next for Mr. Sadman?
QandA_ADrop.jpg[It’s] screening opening night in Eugene, Oregon, at the DisOrient Film Festival on April 23, and at Boston College soon, but this is where we're kind of taking a divergent path. ... In an effort to get as many eyeballs on the film as possible, we're making the film available as a download and on DVD. ... The idea is to make it easy for people who want to watch the film to watch it.

For more from Epino, check out his Q&A from the Siskel Film Center screening.

Brooke O'Neill, AM'04

April 20, 2010