Insan is a short film on the story of the first speaking Arabian oryx ‘Mozaik’. Insan showcases its complex mode of storytelling by blurring the lines between documentary and fiction. As we follow the story of the main human character Shakhbout’s relationship to Maha(Arabic for oryx) Mozaik, we slowly start to see other relationships and parts of our characters’ personalities unravelling into a beautifully shot and beautifully executed film of a special human-animal bond.
Insan is Arabic for human, and this film immerses us in its touching take on the human condition focusing greatly on where animals and communication fit into this intricate puzzle we call humanity. Our main character, Shakhbout, suffers from a stutter and forms a connection with Maha Mozaikthat is unparalleled by any human connection he has ever had. However, the film also tells the story of Reem, the neuroscientist who is working on ‘Maha Mozaik’, the project concerned with giving this genetically modified oryx the ability to process words. Through the story of this creature, we are given access to the all of these characters, their relationships to each other, their relationships to the Arabian oryx, and as the movie ends with a riveting poem, their relationships to their land and culture. In addition to the concluding poem and diegetic sounds, the auditory experience of the film includes a voiceover by Reem towards the beginning, and a rich musical score playing throughout, further absorbing viewers into the world of the film.
The film brilliantly juggles between documentary and fiction to create a unique cinematic experience to tell its story through. At many instances, the characters address the camera, breaking the fourth wall, to at times, speak directly to the viewers of this film and at other times speak to what might be another documentary film being made in the world of Insan itself or simply the documentary parts of this film. There are also many candid and spontaneous moments in the film giving the illusion of an unscripted documentary film. And so, the film’s mashup form becomes incredibly important to our perception of the story and characters.
With a personal and passionate story, stunning visuals of the Arabian oryx, and a contemplative scientific vision, Alexis Gambis profoundly constructs a charismatic and immersive film attentive to both a human lead, Shakhbout, and an animal lead, Maha Mozaik. Beneath all of these things, sharp questions reflecting on the meaning and value of communication, humanity, and animal-human relationships in our culture are also meticulously embedded in Insan.
About the author
Lujain is an undergraduate student studying computer engineering at New York University Abu Dhabi who is particularly invested in engineering applications in the world of biotechnology and biomedicine. She is also interested in exploring science and technology in film as well as the cultural and political significance of cinema