Experiencing Interruptions?

A Beautiful Mess

A maid takes the break up of the family she works for very personally.

  • Shahir Zag
    A Tree in the Sea
  • Shahir Zag
    A Tree in the Sea
  • Jolianne Ray
    A Tree in the Sea
  • Shahir Zag
    A Tree in the Sea
  • Danielle Arden
    Key Cast
    I'm Not A Martyr
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
  • Runtime:
    12 minutes 57 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    June 20, 2016
  • Production Budget:
    15,000 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:
  • BendFilm Festival
    Bend, OR
    United States
    October 7, 2016
    Best Short Film
  • LA Shorts Fest
    Los Angeles, CA
    United States
    September 7, 2016
    North American Premiere
  • Crystal Palace International Film Festival
    Crystal Palace
    United Kingdom
    October 30, 2016
    UK Premiere
  • St. Louis International Film Festival
    St. Louis, Missouri
    United States
    November 11, 2016
  • Foyle Film Festival
    United Kingdom
    November 19, 2016
Director Biography - Shahir Zag

Shahir Zag made his directorial debut with the short film 'A Tree in the Sea,' receiving awards for Best Director, Best Short Film and Best Cinematography at festivals around the world. He works in Dubai as the chief creative officer of an independent advertising agency. Zag has won a bevy of awards for his advertising work, including 35 Lions at the prestigious Cannes Advertising Festival. A Beautiful Mess is his second short film, and he is currently writing the screenplay for his first feature.

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Director Statement

My grandmother was a single mother who raised six children on her own. Being illiterate, her only way to eke out a living was to work as a part time maid in half a dozen homes a day. With that meager survival, she managed to put four of her children through college.

I’ve always been inspired by her story and wherever I’ve lived, I’ve always had a maid come in once a week. It’s a job that gives struggling women a chance. For seven years, I had an incredibly hard-working woman clean my apartment. She used to come in while I was at work, so I never got to see her. But she made my life immeasurably better. She was very intuitive and thoughtful.

When my girlfriend (Jolianne, my producer) moved in with me something snapped. Everything changed. What followed was an extremely passive-aggressive, territorial battle between two women who had never met. My maid hated the woman who had moved in with me. If Jolianne rearranged the furniture, she’d come back home and find that the maid had put things back to their original position. The idea of this film is directly inspired by our experience living under that situation.

It took us a long time to realize that even though it was our home, the maid had ownership, too. Our home was her place of work. It was sacred. She and I had a silent understanding over how the home operated. Jolianne had infiltrated this sacred space. She was an interloper. So the maid made sure to shrink her clothes in the wash, or move around objects to irritate her. And God alone knows, what she did with her toothbrush. It’s doubly ironic that Jolianne worked as a maid as well while she was in college.

In the film, I wanted to capture the emotional bond a person has with their workspace. And how any changes within can affect their state of mind. I wanted the film to be observed, so I decided to shoot only with natural light. I wanted to use the camera movements to express the maid’s loneliness and the internal conflict bubbling too quickly to the surface. There is no dialogue in the film because none is required. The film is a chamber piece with only one character, but I tried to flesh out the other characters through their objects, clothes and the mess they leave behind. All in all, I wanted to to do a short character study with some undertones of dark humor.

Thank you for your consideration.