I first laid eyes on Amir Sulaiman’s new short film, ‘Laying Flowers.:.Setting Fires’ after being sent the link for the trailer by a close friend.
Weeks passed before that same friend forwarded me the link to the completed project — and I was deeply moved. Accompanied by thought-provoking, tear-jerking visuals, Sulaiman’s poetry serves up a level of emotion that we have all felt, but at times have struggled to express.
TheHub.News spoke to the internationally renowned poet about his latest triumph.
“In a way it was daunting because it kind of sits in between genres. It’s kind of a genre in and of itself. And it’s, it’s not quite a short film,” the poet says of Laying Flowers. “It’s not quite like a music video, but it’s like, the lyrics or the poetry is driving the image. You know? Kind of narrative, but not really.”
Listening to Sulaimans’s words, one would be forgiven for thinking the lyrics came easily. But as he began to piece the visuals together, he realized that something was missing.
“I wrote this and then he shot it and it was beautiful. The images that we got… to the actors and the cinematographer — everything was perfect. But when I started to apply the language to the piece, it was very difficult. It wasn’t fitting. I was really disturbed by this. Really troubled by this one. I designed the visuals around the poetry. Why does, why does the poetry feel incomplete when I apply it to the images? I was trying to figure it out for… Oh my God… I can’t even tell you how long. How many more pages. Another 20 pages of poetry trying to [figure out] what was missing.”
Eventually, Sulaiman discovered the missing component.
“I was missing the love. It was like a shell of a thing. It set off the right. You know, I was talking about the struggles. [It’s] talking about the fatigue. It’s talking about the anger. It was all of those things, but it missed the only reason to fight. The only reason to the only thing that we really have a value is love,” he explained. “And if we lose that, then we lose everything.”
“So then I wrote the love poem that you find at the beginning of the field and when he looks back into the room and has that moment — “You know, me and I know you” — like this deep, profound love that that may be romantic love. That may be spiritual love. That may be communal love. That may be whatever, but it’s gloved. And that once I centered that, then all the other pieces fell into place. And the whole thing made sense.”
The beginnings of Laying Flowers.:.Setting Fires are rooted in an Instagram Live challenge, where he would share a Google doc and write poetry alongside his supporters.
“I wanted to open myself up because, of course, it’s such a private intimate process. No one really has that critical behind the scenes of writing a poem because it’s not really a behind the scenes [process.] I thought maybe [with] social networking, there was a way to do that.
“So I did that as an experiment for 90 days. And so people were in the Google doc and actually watching poetry, being created out of the theater out of my heart and soul. I would talk while I was writing, which is also the way that I actually write when I’m in private. But I’m also talking to the audience.
“The community that developed around it ended up being a really meaningful community that we developed and people were coming back every night. And we ended up writing like a hundred pages. A hundred-plus pages of poetry. I didn’t know this when I was doing it, but the film was going to be the end result.”
Sulaiman has huge plans for Laying Flowers.:.Setting Fires. Some of his plans have been delayed due to the pandemic, but he says that fans can expect film screenings in the very near future, as well as more short films.
Watch the full short film below.
Sulaiman served as both writer and director of the movie and enlisted the creative talents of his brothers, Keem and Mikaal Sulaiman, who helped edit the project. Michael “Cambio” Fernandez (Beyonce’s Black is King, Blitz Bazawule’s The Burial of Kojo) worked on the project as Director of Photography while young, Black cellist/composer Malcolm Parson provides the rousing movie score