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Interview with Paul Chiedozie | Trauma (2023)

Interview with Paul Chiedozie | Trauma (2023)

Trauma (2023) explores the story of a man named Maleek who is haunted by a traumatic experience from a past relationship and struggles to move on.

We sat down with the directors of the film, Paul Chiedozie, to find out more about the inspiration behind this film and the various themes it explores. Zems Entertainment: Trauma is a film that deals with an incredibly difficult topic. How did you go about tackling something that is different for everyone?

Paul Chiedozie: Well, first of all, Trauma was a very hard film to make, because it was the most difficult film to translate to my other creatives. At least, with my own experiences with trauma, I realised that’s it something that’s very subjective, unique to an individual and very hard to see.

I decided I wanted to tell a story about trauma in a way that the audience almost wouldn't believe it. Like an experience or a ride. You don’t know what to take from it, what’s real, who the bad guy is. The film itself is hard to follow, and that’s what I felt like back when I was trying to understand what trauma actually was. But it was certainly a very difficult task. The movie itself is quite ambiguous, like you said. Did any of the cast interpret the script in a way that surprised you?

(Laughing) So like I said, translating the story to the creatives was very very difficult. You’re not only relying on people to understand the concept, but you're also relying on your ability to convey it. It’s interesting because with the actors, it was never plain sailing. They either got some parts or they didn’t. But the overall message and story, they understood. There was obviously a linear story in the script they could follow, even if the film itself wasn’t put together in a linear way.

They got the loose thread of the story, where a man’s partner committed suicide and it affects his current relationship. He’s trying to get over his trauma, and his new partner realises that he’s unaware of his trauma and thinks he’s defeated it. In his mind, her trying to help him comes across as her trying to harm him. And in certain instances, that’s just how trauma works. Your closest friend could be your biggest enemy. In the film, we see the crossover between good and bad, and what’s real and not. There’s a point in the film that you, as the main character decides to go get help for your trauma. How important was it to include that in the film?

It’s funny, actually, that you mention that. After the credits, there was an end credit scene where you see the character, Maleek, tied up, and his partner now is the one sitting with him tied up.

It was difficult because I had to put my honest opinion in the film, without offending anyone. So, I left it as a cliff-hanger, for people to interpret it how they wanted to. This whole conversation Maleek had with his partner, had that really been enough to convive him to go get help? Or is he just saying that because he can’t comprehend it? According to research, mental health and trauma has no cure or medicine. It’s a process of trying to manage it, not cure it. So it definitely ends with a cliff-hanger, to show, you know, that he hasn’t cured it.

So, the film ends on a cliff-hanger and it quite ambiguous from start to finish. For you, as a director, how important is it to strike that balance between telling a story the way you want to tell it, and allowing the audience to interpret it in their own way?

Oh... very good question, because it’s something I’ve spoken about before as an artist, being able to express your true voice. If you asked me this question ten years ago, I would have said the most important thing is the audience. It’s all about the audience. Makes sure they understand, they’re happy and they get what they want.

Today, it’s all about yourself. Not in a selfish way, but you have to make something that you’re happy with and that you like the message that comes from it. The truth of the matter is, you shouldn't cater to people liking your work. There will always be someone who likes your work, probably more people than you think. So, you should cater to yourself first. You’ve got to be willing to buy what you’re selling yourself.

But it is something that you battle with throughout your creative journey. The most important thing is being true to yourself and representing yourself in your work and being happy with it. People need to be able to relate to your film in the right way, in the way that you intend them to relate to it. If they do, then it’s mission accomplished. Your career has definitely been one for the books. A couple of years ago, you won the best emerging talent award. How must that have felt for you?

(Laughing) It was strange, I’ve definitely had a very Jekyll and Hyde career. I grew up in a poverty background and didn’t have a lot of financial support. The only person who supported me at that point was my mentor. He always used to say, don’t be upset if you don’t reach your dreams or become a global actor, just be happy that you’ve got where you are today. But I’ve always been pretty stubborn, I knew the times I messed up and the times I deserved greatness.

On the day of the ceremony, I was so stubborn that day thinking I've won. I knew that what I'd done in those past two years, no one else in that category had done. My journey had been crazy. I was hospitalised during the film (Brash Young Turks), and it should have been done, but I discharged myself and went to the shoot the next day (laughing). I knew I would win, because I knew that no-one was as hungry as me.

It was a crazy year though. I’ve always had such a crazy work ethic mindset, so I didn’t have a lot of celebration time, I just went back to work the next day. Looking forward to the future, then, what are you most excited to do as a filmmaker and director?

I’m super excited, more than I have been in the past, mostly because of my personal evolution. Forget about the films, the awards and the journeys. Now it’s all about the exciting things in my journey as a human being, and how I’ve evolved and the things I know now, compared to say, ten years ago.

On that note, I have many, many projects I'm working on at the moment. We're looking to remake, or make a sequel, to my first ever short film, Sinners. I'm curious to see how I can evolve something I’ve done in the past, almost like a representation of my evolution. I’m excited to get involved in more feature films and series. There are also these two films called "Eve" and "My Hero" which I’m really excited about. You’re also launching Zenmai, which is Zems’ Animation Studio as well, right?

I’m really excited to explore animation, it’s something I really want to get into. Zenmai is where we’re planning to mesh and incorporate animation into live action to enhance the viewing experience. There’re certain things you can’t achieve on film no matter what you do, but with animation now, you’re limitless. You can convey any language whatsoever, any lighting, any visual. And so, I’m really excited to see how I can mix them together to make a story better. So, the future for me is very exciting, very bright. And finally, if you could go back in time to your younger self at the start of your journey, what would you say?

Wow... I would say to experience life more. The thing about me, as a creative, is that I can really cave myself in, turn off my phone and just start working. So, I’d say live life more, go aboard, experience stuff. You’ll have so much more to tell, so much more to write about, so much more to express.

I feel like, when people make stories now, it’s just so repetitive. Creativity is becoming more rigid, and people aren’t as unique as they used to be. Nowadays everybody wants to make the same thing, and everyone thinks they can do it better.

But I think you should live your life, explore what you're passionate about, find out who you are, and then you’ll have real art to tell. That’s what I’d tell myself, keep living and live more. Go on more holidays, do more weird things, just live more out of your comfort zone. Article by Zaynah Khan


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