"I love watching films; I’ve watched them since I was 5. All my education came from films."
Kae Bahar is a writer, actor and filmmaker. Originally from Kurdistan, after a spell living in Italy, he moved to London in 1993. Since moving to the UK, he has produced documentary films for the BBC, Channel 4, ITN, and Al Jazeera International, as well as performed as an actor on stage and screen.
Kae moved to Bath in 2012, after a tumultuous time living in London, working long hours away from his family, and having failed to get a feature film and his debut novel off the ground.
"I didn't know anyone in Bath, there isn't a community of filmmakers, so I started to think, 'what am I going to do with my life now?' My brother in law, who lives in Bristol, called me to say he'd been to a place called Watershed, where they screen films, and that there’s this course called Filmworks. I immediately applied to the course, and suddenly this light was creeping in from somewhere when everything was dark around me."
Kae was interviewed by Julie Lockhart, Film Producer and Mark Cosgrove, Watershed's Cinema Curator, and was accepted onto the course, which was an innovative cross-regional training programme run by Watershed in partnership with Showroom Sheffield and Broadway in Nottingham, with funding support from Creative England. Its aim? To get participants' feature films on their feet and be ready to face the industry. In addition to Mark and Julie, Kae was also mentored by BAFTA-winning filmmaker Esther May Campbell.
"They brought a whole host of film professionals to us and, suddenly, you feel part of the UK industry, whereas you might have waited years before you get to any of these guys - and they are there, talking to you! Fantastic!"
The project he developed was called Blindfold Shoes, a story he'd been mulling over since 1984.
"To start with I was hesitant because of all my previous falls. But when it came to the nerve-wracking 60-second pitch, it was fantastic and the mentors warmed to me."
Encouraged by all of this, Kae partnered with Footprint Films, who advised him to make two short films before starting work on the feature. The first of these, I Am Sami, was shot in December 2013 in Kurdistan, with much of the location costs, licensing and props covered by the Kurdistan government.
The film was completed in May 2014, and has been selected for 63 festivals around the world, won 23 awards (including 13 for Best Film and Audience Choice award and 2 for Best Director). Kae has shot the second short, A Special Guest, in the UK, which is set in Bath and stars Anita Dobson and Paul Copley, and spent five months this year co-producing and co-directing The Kurdish Dream, a documentary for Al Jazeera International about the ISIL War and Kurdish independence. Having completed these shorts, Kae now feels he is ready to shoot his first feature.
"Watershed gave me a chance to turn passion into practicality, to be part of a filmmaking community. They introduced me to sales agents, distributors, directors, and producers; people who are passionate like me, and they said 'here is a guy who has spent 35 years before making his first film. Get on with it, do it.' Watershed made me feel like a young filmmaker."
Kae believes Watershed helped him turn his dreams into reality, transforming his ideas into achievable projects, and introducing him to a new network of colleagues and peers.
Kae has recently launched his first novel, Letters From a Kurd, available in over 1000 bookshops around the UK, and hopes to start shooting Blindfold Shoes, in Kurdistan in Spring 2017. He plans to get his next short shown as part of Encounters Short Film and Animation Festival.
"On a personal level, Watershed is always helping me, making suggestions. It's nice to know that someone cares about my work. I can always go to them when I need something. From my experience, it's the best bridge you can cross into the industry; it's a place you are considered on the merit of your work.
"Watershed is a package, it's a place you can watch a film, you take part in filmmaking course, you meet filmmakers; you're in a film world. I love that Watershed shows interesting, wonderful films, unique films, valuable films. Films that are made with heart."
- Matthew Austin, October 2014