DUBAI: “Language of Cosplay” is a short documentary that explores the cosplay community within the UAE, diving into the harsh misconceptions’ cosplayers face, the true meaning of cosplay, and the heart and soul behind the craft.
The film features regional cosplayers that play very important roles within the UAE community, including the 501st Legion, Sumi Cosplay, Batman DXB, Asad Morningstar, Essa Al Bastaki, and more along with Bob Layton (best known for his work on Marvel Comics titles such as Iron Man and Hercules, and for co-founding Valiant Comics), a famous American comic book artist/writer whose become heavily involved in the UAE pop culture community.
Norah Alheraiz, the Director of “Language of Cosplay” from Epiphany Productions shared exclusively to Arab News Japan the story and inspiration behind making the short documentary. She said: “Creating a documentary about cosplay is something that our team had been discussing for a while. Our team consists of cosplayers, pop-culture and anime enthusiasts, as well as people who don’t know much about any of this, but really wanted to learn more. We decided to pursue this idea when we realized there’s a lot of things we want to learn when it comes to cosplay, and we thought it would be cool to shed light on a sub-culture that many people in the UAE aren’t aware exists in the country.”
“When we finally had our minds set on working on a cosplay documentary, a few of us had visited the Middle East Film & Comic Con to meet cosplayers. For people who didn’t know much about cosplay, being able to see cosplayers in person, take photos with them, or recognize characters from their favorite shows or movies really built an interest for cosplay.”
“However, one thing we also learned was that there was also a lack of understanding about cosplay. For example, when entering the event, we saw a man in his late 30s in a really cool Star Wars cosplay, and we heard someone say “he is almost 40 and he’s cosplaying, I didn’t know guys could do that too.” It was then a lot of us realized it’s not enough just to create a documentary showing cosplayers, but to educate audiences on who can cosplay, what are the different kinds of cosplays you can do, how can someone create a cosplay, how much time and effort goes into this craft, and why they do it,” she added.
About the challenges and experience that the production team faced during working on (Language of Cosplay) short documentary, Alheraiz said: “It took about 7 months to complete the film, and within the time we faced and overcame a lot of challenges. Firstly, this is the largest team we have ever worked with on a production, which was a total of 8 people. Because of this, communication and teamwork was something we always spoke about in order to make sure everyone was on the right track, and that we could be there to help one another out.”
“Being a big team also meant when it came to transportation and visiting different locations, there were a lot of people with different responsibilities. We used a lot of heavy equipment, and would need to travel in multiple vehicles to get everyone and the equipment all there. Once we got to a location, it would take around an hour and a half to move in all the equipment, set up, and be ready for when the cosplayers would come. After interviews, it would then take another hour to pack up, and move everything back to the vehicles. One of the biggest challenges we faced was the responsibility and weight of creating a documentary about a community. As documentary filmmakers, we want to be accurate, and be truthful in our storytelling. While doing this, we also want to make sure that we aren’t being selective, and only showing things we like about the community, we want to show everything that we discover. The UAE cosplay community is very tight knit, they all know each other, or know of each other, it’s a big family, and it’s important that we showed their community accurately.”
“Our team did a lot of research, through going to conventions, speaking to different cosplayers, and doing online research. For example, when it came to music, the score composed was inspired by the cosplayers we interviewed, and we did a lot of research on films, anime, games, etc… that they were interested in, so that we could implement these inspirations into our work. There was also a lot of technical skills that we had to learn when it came to post-production, as we wanted to experiment with animation and stop-motion to create a craft feel,” she added.
Speaking of the most memorable moments during the production of the short documentary, Alheraiz said: “As a team, we all had to overcome challenges together which really brought us closer and helped us gain trust in one another. The director of the film had asked us all to create our own cosplays while we worked on creating the documentary. This put us in the positions of the cosplayers, and by doing this everyone was really able to gain a new level of respect for the effort that cosplayers put into creating their costumes. When we all came together in our cosplays, it gave us the feel of being part of the cosplay community. We had a lot of fun, and realized that this is how the cosplay community feels as well.”
“Another memorable moment for us was definitely seeing the contributors in cosplay. One of our first interviews was with Batman DXB, a known cosplayer in Dubai who’s infamous for keeping his real identity hidden. When he entered the store in costume, it was just amazing to see all of the details on his costume, how he got into character. We also had another cosplayer, Sumi Cosplay, who is a professional cosplayer come in cosplay to her interview as well. It just made the interviews really fun and exciting.”
“We also faced a lot of challenges together which I think was memorable because we all supported one another. For example, our producer had gotten a flat tire on a day where we were editing in the studio, but she still sorted things quickly in order to come and help out. The dedication from the team was just amazing, and that’s exactly what we needed to create this documentary,” she added.
Regarding the feedback of (Language of Cosplay) Documentary movie from the community, Alheraiz said the feedback “has been very good. We’ve been submitting into film festivals both internationally, and domestically. Our film was selected so far into 3 film festivals, and it’s only been a few months which is amazing. We have not been able to show the full film to the public yet in accordance with film festival guidelines, however if the film is shown at a domestic film festival, audiences then will be able to watch the film there.”
While working on the film, we had a private test screening with a select audience to get some feedback, and overall, the reactions and feedback has been very positive. We are very grateful that people are enjoying the film, and we are looking forward to sharing more soon. As of now, the trailer of the film, and our behind-the-scenes video can be found on our social media,” she added.
Speaking of the establishment of Epiphany Productions and its concept, Alheraiz said: “Our team is called Epiphany Productions. We founded it while studying in SAE Institute Dubai. We would work on projects together, and realized that we liked one another’s artistic visions and work ethics. Because of this, we wanted to continue working on projects together in the future, which is where we founded Epiphany Productions.”
“As a team, we’ve worked on a variety of projects, such as ‘Landed Interest,’ an award-winning TV pilot episode, an award-winning documentary about vintage fashion, and a short film”.
“We want to explore documentaries because we realized there’s so many amazing stories within the UAE, and we love being able to learn about the world around us. On top of this, we are also interested in working on other projects, such as more short films, television episodes, etc…,” she added.
Regarding Epiphany Productions upcoming projects, Alheraiz said: “We recently completed ‘Language of Cosplay’ a few months ago as part of our graduation project at SAE Institute Dubai. Despite things being hectic between graduating, job hunting, and distributing the film, we definitely want to work on more projects. We’ve been discussing a few documentary ideas, as well as the possibility of working on some short films, a music video, and so on.”