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My First Documentary Film Uses Al


Film Poster

Apicture created using AI.jpeg

A picture created with the help of AI


A Painting by Talal Aboudan

By Rami Ibrahim

10 July 2024

"Mariam and Textiles" is an experimental documentary showing an innovative initiative to bring art, technology and even archeology together. It also helps reduce the fear of artificial intelligence by demonstrating its advantages while being used to promote culture.

Ideation usually comes after engagement and empathy

After a long period of interest in the ancient languages and cultures of the Fertile Crescent, I wanted to dig deeper into the history of the human race beyond literate cultures. Therefore, I traced the use of textiles back to the Paleolithic age, and was impressed by what I discovered. Given my intense passion for textile archaeology, I wanted to share my knowledge and interest with others through visual arts. Having a mother who has worked as a seamstress for a long time as well as making dolls and dressing them with folkloric cloths must have sparked the idea of a film about textiles.

The challenge that triggers creativity

One of the great challenges of my short film called Mariam and Textiles is its unique subject. A documentary requires documents, materials, objects, etc., but I had almost nothing other than the dolls of my mother, Mariam Maroof. However, having a literary and academic background allowed me to create the two stories on which my film is based: a subjective one summarizing Mariam Maroof's journey of live and another objective one analyzing her art, and following the social and religious significance associated with the elements of clothing she makes.

If I had wanted to make a documentary film about the Syrian civil war, I would have only had to select my documents from a deluge of them. Similarly, if I had chosen the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as my subject, I would have found thousands of materials to employ. However, in my case, I had to create the materials and documents for my film. Indeed, I asked another Syrian artist to make me a drawing that recounted a relevant part of my mother’s childhood and her deprivation of access to school. This lack of documents also pushed me to call on the commercial services of a promising start-up, called HOUR ONE, which I used to convert my script into a speech narrated by an avatar.

Experimentalism that pulls the carriage

My short film is based on two main stories: while the first story subtitled " the song of Mariam” is subjective and full of emotions, the second is objective and based mainly on rigorous academic research.

Let’s take the first one for example. If I had interviewed Mariam Maroof and asked her to talk about herself, she would have told a part of the story. However, she would not have made her story authentic, attractive, impressive, relevant and harmonious with the whole film and its subject. The whole film is a demonstration of her talent in regard to textile artistry. However, she does not have the fictional talent to create attractive stories nor the vision of the filmmaker. If I had asked her questions, she would not have talked about Talal Aboudan or his art or paintings on which a considerable part of the visual material of the film is based. Therefore, Al allowed me to create an attractive, relative and authentic story and to have it told with a voice (or character) resembling Mariam Maroof.

Without Al, it would have been impossible to create this part simply because Mariam Maroof does not speak English. Moreover, if I had interviewed her, she might not have used linguistic techniques (pauses and repetitions) that I used with the help of AI to reinforce the message and highlight the themes.

One of the experiments I had during the production process was creating an avatar of my mother in order to narrate the part called “the song of Mariam”. However, I was not satisfied with the avatar created because the machine/humanoid side was rather intrusive and more dominant than the human side. So I abandoned the idea after investing time and money because the result I obtained weakened the emotional appeal of this “song” instead of strengthening it.


The use of artificial intelligence in the service of culture

The popularization of a subject coming from the academic realm is one of the main merits of my documentary and it is not the only one. Moreover, my film is a response to Jacques Fresco's call for investment in culture to cope with the rapid advancement of technology. This founder of the Venus Project believes that we have not developed yet social systems capable of dealing with the rapid advancement of technology and hence the risk of system collapse or the emergence of crises. He believes that we must ensure that social and cultural progress is equal to that we are making in terms of high technology, otherwise we will be in danger. My film is therefore an attempt to put high technology (AI in my case) at the disposal of our modern culture and to contribute to the goal of intercultural understanding.

Mariam and Textiles: Film Trailer

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