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Cambridge Film Festival
Shezad Dawood: Cowboy art
by Chris Osborne
Cowboys, Indians, zombies and a gothic barn. Shezad Dawood tells us about his not-so-Hollywood spectacular, his multi-national uprbringing and working in the Cambridgeshire countryside. To hear the full interview, click the links below.
Seeing as he is currently based at the Wysing Arts Centre, it was a short trip for Shezad to the BBC offices in Cambridge. However, it might have been hard to tear himself away from his work, simply because it sounds like the most fun place to be. Ever.
Shezad's new project, entitled Feature, will eventually take the form of a film. It will have cowboys and Indians like a lot of other films do. They'll be gun fighting, line dancing and meeting zombies, just like Mr Eastwood used to.
Images already shot by Shezad Dawood
Well, maybe Clint never came face to face with a zombie, but it's probably safe to assume that Clint wouldn't like this kind of movie.
"My family's originally from India and Pakistan, I was born in London in Hammersmith and I've lived in various cities and countries," says Shezad, his accent soft but confident, a middle-England tone that belies his Asian roots and even his West London home.
"I guess it leaves you without any kind of fixed centre. I've learnt to rethink the way I see the world because of that and find it hard to believe in conservative nationalisms."
The results can be a "crazy mix", as Shezad describes it. A blend that can involve jumbo sets of the Rocky mountains created in Pakistan and cowboy gun-fights in the countryside - most of the filming has been done in Bourn or at the Wysing Arts Centre.
"I filmed some black and white footage to show what I meant by translating Cambridgeshire into the Mid-West. It's amazing how, with a certain focus, anything can become anything else."
Shezad's tormenting of Hollywood iconography and twisting of traditional tales lies in most of his work. A series of reproduced blockbuster movie posters, culminating in a glossy version of Scorsese's Taxi Driver based in Karachi, Pakistan, is a grade A example.
But this time around it's cowboys in Cambridgeshire, and the public were invited down to an open casting session for extras. Which surely means hitting the local charity shops for cowboy chaps, boots and hats.
"Have you been spying on us? Around Cambridge they're fantastic. It was only a week or two ago that we did the whole run of them. We couldn't resist raiding the charity shops for all those extra bits and pieces."
When complete the film will tour the country and should return to the county at next year's Cambridge Film Festival - needless to say BBC Cambridgeshire will be there. In the meantime however, you can catch Shezad's latest project at his studio off Brick Lane in London: If I Should Fall from Grace with God.
"It's a meeting ground of the myth of the American West and Islamic mysticism, looking at the way that both mythologies began in the desert. It will be a mixture of paintings and sculptures using tumble weeds and neon."
In short, you'll never be able to watch a Gary Cooper classic in the same way again.
last updated: 27/08/2008 at 13:47
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