Adam Duncan’s Reflections on Ya Albi

When we (Christine Chen and I) decided to make “Ya Albi,” a film about a Syrian refugee, we knew that we may be dealing with a topic that could be political or controversial. We didn’t care about that though, because we just didn’t see it that way. We just wanted to make a good film about the human condition through the eyes of an immigrant that was relevant to today’s world without any political agenda.

We were fortunate enough to have a team of like minded people who were eager to get behind the story. The Ya Albi team consisted of a diverse group and many contributed their own immigrant experience to the production. Our team included individuals with roots in Syria, Cyprus, Palestine, Jordan, Iraq, Germany, India, South Korea and Taiwan. What a mix to guide us through! Director and writer Christine Chen wrote with her family’s experience in mind. Actress Diana Rose and her family in Syria were invaluable in helping us to understand the customs and mindset of a Syrian woman. I was blown away when German-American composer Steffen Schmidt convinced Iraqi-Jordanian violinist and singer Layth Sidiq to record a song so touching, I cried upon first hearing it. That song by the way, can be heard in the trailer and the closing credits of the extended cut.

We were also fortunate that we had so much help from the great people of Shreveport. We needed a bus, the film commission gave us a bus. We needed a house, a friend gave us a house. We needed 10 pounds of crawfish, Shaver’s Crawfish gave us 60. This is why we keep filming in Shreveport. Because the city and the people are so kind and so enthusiastic about supporting the arts. It really makes our jobs so much easier.

Some of our previous film sets were extremely challenging, dealing with weather, animals, deep woods locations, and so on. “Ya Albi” in comparison was a piece of cake. Yes, we dealt with some rain and a nasty flu…which I gave to everyone. However, we were lucky to have a gritty, experienced crew and actors who came in and nailed it every time.

One of the greatest experiences during my time behind the camera is seeing actors take some words on paper and create a vibrant, living, interesting character. To see Diana Rose, Wanetah Walmsley, Mary Thoma and Darrell Mitchell craft such real and wonderful characters was truly a joy for me. I remember watching the monitor and knowing i was seeing great performances by talented actors and knowing that we were making something unique and worthwhile.


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