Razane Jammal as Salama in Djinn Image Credit: Supplied

There are movie roles that define and shape your life and then there are roles that send you retreating in search of emotional balance. Djinn’s leading lady Razane Jammal experienced the latter after filming in UAE’s first horror film.

“For my role, I had to cry and scream all day. We had to imagine things. So I dug deep into myself. I opened old wounds. So when the movie was done, I had all these wounds that were left raw and open,” said Jamal.

She plays Salama, one half of an Emirati couple, who reluctantly moves from New York to the UAE with her husband. She’s grappling with the death of their child and a change would do good, advises her US-based counsellor. But her UAE tryst is far from perfect.

“I was screaming and crying all day... It left me exhausted mentally and physically. The question was, how do I mend my heart? I met with spiritual healers and went to Kerala for meditation. Yoga kept me sane,” said Jammal.

Born in Lebanon, this 26-year-old actress is what you call a citizen of the world. She has lived in London, the Middle East and is now living in Los Angeles. She describes her Djinn director Tobe Hooper as an exacting leader who loves doing a scene over and over again.

“Tobe is a complex character. You have to earn his trust. Salama is his vision. I might have played her slightly differently. I may not cry as much. At one point, I told Tobe: ‘if she cries so much, the audience will want her to die. She needs to be stronger’,” said Jammal.

Djinn, hailed as UAE’s first horror film, took more than two years for theatrical release leaving behind a set of frustrated actors (at the opening night of Djinn at ADFF last Friday, its stars were gushing on the red carpet about how its release came as a “pleasant surprise” ).

“When they called me to say it will release, I didn’t believe them. I believed it only when I saw it being screened on the big screen. It felt amazing even though I had moved on by then,” said Jammal, who also plays a role in Kanye West’s 30-minute short film, A Cruel Summer. Grammy-winner West’s ambitious film/art installation premiered at the Cannes Film Festival this year.

“He shot it on seven different cameras. It’s an experimental film and I play the queen in the story about a guy and a princess. He is not as aggressive as the media makes him out to be. He’s a productive artist, a visionary. He has the talent and the courage to carry out his dreams.”

While she considers West a go-getter, she says that plunging into acting requires guts.

“You have people telling you that your clock is ticking and that if you don’t make it by next year then you are gone. Actors deals with so much rejection. The keep saying: ‘you are not Lebanese enough, you are not American enough, you are not English enough, you are nothing, you are too fat, you are too tall, you are too skinny’. There’s so much criticism that you need to be mentally strong to be stable.”