Ruba Nadda is a Montreal-born, Toronto-based filmmaker. She attended York University and the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU. She has written and directed several feature films, including Sabah (2005) and Cairo Time (2009), and Inescapable (2012).
In her latest film, the taut psychologically thriller October Gale (2014), a doctor (Patricia Clarkson) takes in a mysterious man (Scott Speedman) when he washes ashore at her remote cottage with a gunshot wound — and soon discovers that his would-be killer (Tim Roth) is on his way to finish the job. (TIFF official site)
October Gale will play at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 11 and 12.
WaH: Please give us your own description of the film.
RN: Months after the sudden death of her husband in a violent storm, Helen retreats to their remote island cabin to try to come to terms with her loss. In the middle of the night, a stranger shows up bleeding from a gunshot wound. Helen saves his life, but when the men who are after him descend on her, she has to fight back. The film portrays a woman dealing with loss and grief, trying to regain control of her life. Patricia [Clarkson] plays a strong but broken woman who has to wrangle all these violent men.
WaH: What drew you to this story?
RN: I wrote it, and I always start with the character. What really drew me is the idea of loss — the situation that this woman finds herself in. She’s been with her husband for over 30 years, and now suddenly he’s gone. She’s a strong, smart, capable woman, but after two people are together that long, it’s hard to know how to be alone. It’s the age at which she’s widowed that seems so difficult to contend with. The kids have just moved out, you’re embarking on another part of your life together, and then suddenly, it’s not going to happen.
WaH: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?
RN: There were many. Definitely the shooting of the movie. I usually have more fun on my sets, but this one was tough. The financing seemed to be in a state of perpetual jeopardy. The weather was against us — we were shooting on a lake, and this was the coldest winter in decades. We had to juggle our schedule, and the ice still didn’t thaw until two days before we were to be shooting on the water. The one thing that saved me were my actors. Patricia, Scott [Speedman], Tim [Roth] and Callum [Keith Rennie]. They were brilliant and up for anything we needed them to do.
WaH: What do you want people to think about when they are leaving the theatre?
RN: For me, I want people to feel something in the pit of their stomach. I want my movies, especially the ending, to stay with people long after the credits have rolled.
WaH: What advice do you have for other female directors?
RN: Don’t take no for an answer. Don’t let yourself get pushed around, and don’t be afraid to be the bad guy. Find a producer who will be there to back you up when things get difficult. Make sure you work with key crew that you trust. I always say, I’m a woman, I can’t change my sex. I can’t get angry about it. I’m too busy desperately trying to get my movies made. It’s hard work. There are no short cuts. If there were, I would have found them by now.
Oh, and it’s all about the casting. If you have the cast, you’re more than halfway there.
WaH: What’s the biggest misconception about you and your work?
RN: It’s hard to say because I don’t know what the conceptions are about me. I try not to worry about these things.
WaH: How did you get your film funded?
RN: October Gale, like my last movie, Cairo Time, was made with Canadian and American financing — some presales as well. Telefilm Canada, Harold Greenberg Fund, OMDC, tax credits, Myriad – Pacific Northwest.
WaH: Name your favorite women directed film and why.
RN: Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation: simple, elegant, well directed, and well written. I loved that movie, and years later, I still look at that script from time to time. Just a classic.