Private Project

A Tree in the Sea

The last traditional fisherman of Fujairah fishes illegally in a marine reserve to keep a promise he made 65 years earlier.

  • Shahir Zag
  • Shahir Zag
  • Jolianne Zag
  • Abdullah Mohammed Sulaiman
    Key Cast
  • Mousa Abdulhakim
    Key Cast
  • Khalid Mohammed Abdullah
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    Family, Drama, adventure, narrative fiction
  • Runtime:
    18 minutes 37 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    January 1, 2015
  • Production Budget:
    35,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United Arab Emirates
  • Country of Filming:
    United Arab Emirates
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Miami International Film Festival
    Miami, Florida
    March 8, 2015
    North American Premiere
    Honorable Mention
  • Montreal World Film Festival
    Montreal, CA
    August 27, 2015
    Canadian Premiere
    Official Selection
  • Portland Film Festival
    Portland, OR
    September 1, 2015
    West Coast Premiere
    Official Selection
  • Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival
    Rehoboth Beach, DE
    November 7, 2015
    Official Selection
  • Leeds International Film Festival
    United Kingdom
    November 12, 2015
    UK Premiere
    7th Place in Audience Choice (out of 33)
  • Hawaii International Film Festival
    November 15, 2015
    Hawaii Premiere
  • Cincinnati Film Festival
    Cincinnati, OH
    September 18, 2015
    Ohio Premiere
    Nominated - Best Cinematography
  • Atlanta Shortfest
    Atlanta, GA
    October 23, 2015
    Georgia Premiere
    Best Short Film
  • Tirana International Film Festival
    Tirana, Albania
    November 18, 2015
  • International Children's Film Festival India
    Hyderabad, India
    November 16, 2015
    India Premiere
    Best Short Film - Asian Panorama
  • Spotlight Film Awards

    Platinum Award
  • International Independent Film Awards

    Platinum Award
Director Biography - Shahir Zag

A Tree in the Sea marks the directorial debut of Shahir Zag. He works in Dubai as the chief creative officer of one of the leading advertising agencies in the world. Zag has won a bevy of awards for his advertising work, including 35 Lions at the prestigious Cannes Festival. He is currently working on his second short film, A Beautiful Mess.

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Director Statement

If a tree falls down in the forest and there's no one there to hear it, does it make a sound? If you did something great but no one knows about it, are you still a legend?

A Tree in the Sea is a simple story about legacy and how events in the past butterfly-effect into our present. In the simple-minded way of a 10 year-old, Suleiman grasps this notion deeply. That he has the power to change the world in a small but dramatic way. We all do. Khaled doesn't share this view. He is content with the present, like most of us he's only concerned with the here and now. The central conflict in the movie is about this clash within us. The Romantic versus the Realist.

Since I was a child, I've always been drawn to traditional fisherpeople. There's a primacy to their existence that's unmatched by any other group of people. They're completely self-subsistent. They can feed themselves, build their own houses and their own modes of transportation. Our planet is mostly water and these people have a deep understanding of it. Without sea-faring people we wouldn't have discovered anything. They're the first explorers, the visionaries. And now humanity is making sure that soon all of them will become extinct. I wanted to set the film in Fujairah for exactly that reason. The place has such a rich history but all the traditional fishing villages lie in ruin. They've been replaced by skyscrapers. When my wife and producer on the film, Jolianne Zag and I were researching we found Mohammed Abdullah Suleiman, who is the last surviving traditional fisherman from that area. We wanted him to play the lead and after a lot of difficulty and to our delight, he eventually agreed. Every prop, every basket, every oar and net in this movie was hand-built by him. He is the real deal.

The DoP, Ricardo Prates and I wanted a rawness and authenticity to the images. We decided to only shoot in natural light and we patiently waited for clouds to pass overhead. We wanted the location to be a character in the movie and I think we managed that.

A Tree in the Sea is cinema at its simplest. It makes you think but even young children can understand its message clearly. That we have an ability to shape our environment, our destiny. That ordinary people can achieve greatness with ordinary actions. And it doesn't matter if you get credit for it.