Private Project

Majnun: Mad in Love

MAJNUN: Mad in Love is a proof-of-concept film that retells an ancient story about love and loss in a unique combination of film-making and story-telling through dance.

Believed to be the basis for Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, the Middle-Eastern legend of Layla and Majnun has endured for centuries. When Qays falls in love with Layla, his passion slowly drives him mad and earns him the epithet “Majnun” (or “mad”). In Soraya Syed’s new version, the story unfolds through the lenses of its eponymous hero, who relates his life in the twin languages of dance and calligraphy, both echoes of the poetry so central to his existence. His descent into madness is juxtaposed by the increasingly beautiful art he creates in a story of man’s longing, artistic brilliance and journey towards personal annihilation.

This award-winning short is a collaboration with master dancers and filmmakers BalletBoyz (Michael Nunn OBE & William Trevitt OBE) with musical score by renowned British composer Nitin Sawhney CBE (Mowgli 2018).

  • Soraya Syed
    Hurriyah (2013), On the Edge (in development, 2020)
  • Michael Nunn
    Romeo and Juliet: Beyond Words (2019), Young Men (2016), BalletBoyz Live at the Roundhouse (2015), The Royal Ballet in Cuba (2009), BalletBoyz: The Rite of Spring (2009), Tightrope (2014)
  • Art of the Pen
  • Manilla Productions
    Young Men (2016), Romeo and Juliet: Beyond Words (2019), The Royal Ballet in Cuba (2009), BalletBoyz: The Rite of Spring (2009), Tightrope (2014) Strictly Bolshoi (2007)
  • Ben Knapper of BalletBoyz
    Key Cast
  • Soraya Syed
  • Karthika Nair
    Until the Lions (2015), Chotto Desh (2015), Desh (2011)
  • Project Title (Original Language):
  • Project Type:
    Experimental, Short, Other
  • Genres:
    Drama, Spirituality, magical-realism, dance
  • Runtime:
    3 minutes 35 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    July 1, 2019
  • Production Budget:
    27,000 GBP
  • Country of Origin:
    United Kingdom
  • Country of Filming:
    United Kingdom
  • Language:
    Arabic, English
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • NRFF's Love Story Film Festival 2020
    United Kingdom
    February 15, 2020
    1st Prize for Best Dance Short
Director Biography - Soraya Syed, Michael Nunn

Soraya Syed is an artist, filmmaker and classically trained calligrapher of growing international renown. She pushes the boundaries of her traditional art form and takes the written word off the page into dance, film and VR. She has worked with the likes of Google, the British Museum and the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Michael Nunn and Billy Trevitt founded Balletboyz the dance company in 2000. As well as their extensive repertoire of stage works, they have created numerous arts documentaries for television as well as short films for Channel 4. They have won numerous awards for their feature-length dance film Young Men set in the First World War (2016) executively produced by the BBC. BalletBoyz are Sadler’s Wells Associate Artists and have received OBEs from the Queen.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

MAJNUN: Mad in Love is inspired by Nizami’s 12th-century poem, ‘Layla and Majnun’, a story of desperate lovers forced apart in which their love transforms into divine spiritual love through separation and longing. The legend is based on many ageless and common themes such as isolation, exile, identity, love and betrayal. In this proof of concept film, we see Majnun awake in the forest to what he believes is Layla’s voice. Imagining she is near, his search for her begins. He finds her, but not in the way we expect.

As an artist also trained in classical Arabic calligraphy, I am passionate about taking the word in its literal form off the page into the world of storytelling – to turn the words into characters with life inside a narrative. As we’re living in increasingly divisive times, I am progressively seeking to share universal and timeless stories that resonate with me and that I’m not seeing being made. Dance and film are the perfect partners for me through which to tell these tales combining analogue craft with SFX and VFX.

While working with a linear narrative, layers of meaning and symbolism weave their way visually through the set, costume and choreography. The film is deliberately not overtly culturally, geographically or period-specific and merges the real and fantastical though some subtle VFX. It brings together world-class collaborators and employs the trope of seasons and nature to reflect the changes in Majnun’s life and in his love for Layla. The intended feature-length version is at developmental stage and promises to be an outstanding production with incredible talent already on board including Oscar-nominated, Cesar-winning set designer Jean Rabasse. - Soraya Syed