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IMRAN AHMAD (2012) - Page 2


MRH: How did you get involved with the Ford brothers (Howard and John) and The Dead?


IA: I met Howard in London probably about 3 years ago at a media event, and we started talking about what we were doing, and he said that he was just going into post-production of The Dead.

He told me a little bit about it – he’s an incredible enthusiastic person, and an amazing guy - and I told him what I do and said ‘I’d love to send you my show reel.’ He sent me a link to the initial trailer they’d put up on YouTube, and when I saw it I was just completely blown away. I love watching zombie movies, but this was something different. It was set in West Africa (particularly in Burkina Faso), it’s mainly in the outback (the barren wilderness in daylight), and they shot it on 35mm film.

I was very excited by it and I immediately wrote some music which, in my mind, encapsulated what I was feeling. I came up with a very adventurous sounding demo which I sent to him a couple of days later, and he and Jon loved it. I met up with them subsequently to talk further about my ideas for the score, which they really liked, because I was coming from more of a spiritual point of view, as opposed to just doing something which is ‘horror for zombie movies’. It was more than that because the film (to me) was more of a journey movie than a zombie horde attacking people.


MRH: I was completely blown away by the visuals. The use of colour is breathtaking.


AI: The shots of the vistas and the landscapes are so beautiful. It’s incredible the job they did. They went to a ‘lawless’ Burkina Faso. I don’t know if you know much about the horror stories.


MRH: The making-of featurette on the Blu-ray detailed some of the craziness. Years ago, a friend traveled to visit family in Tanzania, and at one point he had to take a bus, and he was puzzled by several passengers who had large cases of food and canned goods under their seats. Then each time they stopped at a border crossing, guards would come in, and they were given food or cash bribes, and by the time the bus had reached its end destination, everything people had been sitting on or above was gone!


AI: Really? I’m not surprised. [The Fords and the production team] were held up at gunpoint and they were mugged all the time; they were like a walking cash machine. There are lots of stories - they even had a decoy that sent one unit in one direction, knowing that people would go after them that way, and they would go somewhere else! He’s just come out with an eBook called Surviving The Dead, and it’s his memoirs from shooting The Dead which makes a really interesting read.


MRH: You mentioned that for yourself there were both the visuals and a journey story going on in The Dead. Everything’s been stripped down to just these two characters going from point A to point B, and I think the first hour is some of the most intense stuff I’ve seen in a while, because the sense of danger is so unrelenting.


IA: It’s almost like a neo-realistic take on what it would actually be like. For me, I felt there’s so much nature where they shot the film, and it’s the elements that have kind of turned against them. It’s not just the zombies; there’s the sun, which is forever burdening them; and there’s mental and physical exhaustion that they’re going through. The zombies might be the least thing that kills them, so from that point of view I thought it was very much a journey story, and how the two main characters are trying to hold onto something. They have their respective families to get back to; it’s really what keeps them on the move.

I really wanted to musically bring an earthiness into the score, as if these sounds were kind of coming of from Nature itself – from the environment and the climate, which is why it has a lot of percussion and vocals; they’re the two most primal instruments known to humankind.


MRH: I think the vocal parts are also tied to the characters’ humanism, whereas there’s this industrial sound that is more typical for the zombies, which makes for a great contrast.


AI: I was definitely trying to strike a balance between them. The Ford brothers were very keen to convey this fragile sense of hope the characters had in this post-apocalyptic world now filled with zombies.

For the vocals, I worked with a singer called Saba Tewelde - she’s a friend of mine, and she’s originally from East Africa – her voice was what I felt could represent Nature. She’s got this amazing vocal dichotomy where the higher registers are very beautiful and ethereal, and the low ones are sorrowful and foreboding, and I thought that’s kind of a nice way of representing the Nature - almost trying to recreate harmony because of what’s going on in the world. The vocals just stay with the characters the whole time; they never leave them alone, especially Lieutenant Brian Murphy (Rob Freeman).

One of the points I wanted to make is that these characters don’t enjoy killing the zombies. Sergeant Dembele (Prince David Oseia) is hacking away at them, but he doesn’t enjoy it at all; these are his people. It’s not meant to be gratuitous violence in that sense, if you know what I mean. It’s a very human take on a zombie movie.

And then for the actual friendship and hope-side-of-things, I worked with a musician called Jally Kebba Susso who’s from Gambia, and he plays a stringed instrument called the kora. It’s an ancient West African instrument - very beautiful sounding - and I thought that, coupled with his voice, would almost represent their internal feelings which weren’t being spoken outwardly. It was amazing just to work with him alone; he’s the 75th generation of kora players from that part of the world. A lot of history there.

Saba Tewelde

Jally Kebba Susso

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