A son longing to join his friends in Canada to continue with his studies makes a desperate appeal to his father. An overworked husband is anxious to start a new life in a different country but has been duped by false promises in the past. A cross-border love story leaves a couple eager to find a new home where their son can be raised minus the political red tape.
Such are the despairing, yet very real stories that have been highlighted in a series of short films that have been launched by Gulf News’ in-house content agency, agnc3. The series shifts focus on to the families and individuals who find themselves at the cusp of taking a bold new step by starting afresh in a new country, with hopes and dreams in their eyes.
In a tie-up with Bayat Legal Services, this four-episode series called ‘Bayat: A Solemn Promise’ is a narrative based on real-life hurdles faced by their clients.
“We are trying to replicate real stories in these short films, stories that will resonate with people who live in the UAE,” said Sam Bayat, founder and owner, Bayat Legal Services that has spearheaded this project. “In one of the episodes, we tackle the issue of multi-ethnic marriages. We have an Indian man marrying a Pakistani woman who find themselves facing a very real identity issue while raising their son.
“Such scenarios are common in the Arab world as well when, let’s say, a Syrian national marries a Lebanese national. After they retire or lose their jobs here in the UAE, the very real question of where can they go looms ahead... That’s where a conversation about migration or citizenship comes in.”
Without getting too technical with its message, each short film tackles a fairly familiar scenario, while also addressing ways to handle them.
In the first story, a middle-aged Indian couple find themselves struggling financially and emotionally, while attempting to create a comfortable lifestyle for themselves and their young daughter. The father continues to burn the midnight oil while missing out on spending precious time with his wife and child.
“In that story, the father also mentions being duped by agents in the past who promise the moon but disappear with their hard-earned money,” said Bayat. “We repeat that theme in another short film, where a Filipino couple also find themselves cheated out of their cash in the past.
“We’ve highlighted this issue over and over only because there have been so many cases in the past where agents pretend to guarantee a person or family’s immigration process, take thousands of dirhams in cash and then either disappear or come back with a flimsy excuse saying the application was rejected.”
Spanning across four episodes, another story that slips into focus is that of an Arab family, where the son wants to head to Canada to study further but the father is hesitant.
“Across the stories we have imparted different advice. In the case of the Indian family, or that of the Filipino couple, immigration is the best option, but for the Indian-Pakistani family the story plays out differently. Because in their case not only are they secure financially, but they also have an additional burden of giving birth to their son in Canada to obtain a birth visa for him and are now attempting to head to greener pastures after misrepresenting their intentions the first time around,” says Bayat. “In such a case, we open up the option of investing and purchasing a citizenship.”
As the short films unspool, situations are worked upon by agents to come up with amicable immigration solutions for the clients.
“If you notice in the film, similar solutions can be applied to cross the immigration hurdles for people with different backgrounds because ethnicity doesn’t play any role in Anglo-Saxon programme,” explained Bayat. “However, age is an important criteria for certain programmes — the younger you are, the greater your chances are. Most countries follow a point-based system to select applications. You will never get a negative point of course, but depending on your age and skills the points will determine whether you qualify. But if you choose to apply as a business applicant, age doesn’t factor in at all.”
Across the films, Canada remains a hot option for immigration, along with the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand, which Bayat admitted were popular young professionals. “Canada is the ideal destination for many in the UAE and is a running theme in the films because it has a better environment and boasts a multicultural society that is similar to those living here,” he added.
Watch the trailer
To create the films, the agnc3 team conceptualised the script and then engaged an external production company to shoot it.
“A film crew of 11, which included the director, first assistant directors, cinematographer, camera assistants, gaffer, art team, sync sound, make-up artist were brought on board,” according to David George, Publisher, agnc3.
While actors were hired to play out the stories on camera, the footage itself was shot extensively at Bayat’s offices in Al Moosa Tower 2, as well as at locations such as City Walk and JLT.
George further adds that it was decided to create webisodes that bring the on-ground reality to a medium that many understand better.
“Today, YouTube, IGTV and streaming services have made short films more accessible than ever before. Publishers across the world have turned to short films as a differentiator to help drive online success and generate revenue, and that is a sweet spot we also want to be in. For us, working on the Bayat series was the first step in that direction,” said George.
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Bayat: A Solemn Promise, is out on April 14 on gulfnews.com