ScreamFest, the longest-running film festival dedicated to all things horror in the United States, screened its first-ever Bahraini short horror film in Los Angeles last week. The six-minute clip entitled Cloven debuted in this year’s line-up for Horror Shorts, and was produced, directed, and acted-in by an entirely Bahraini cast and crew.
Starring Reem Erhama and Mubarak Khamis Zayed, Cloven is based on a traditional Bahraini folktale “Hemrat al Ghailah”, which translates to “Donkey Lady”. The tale is about a vicious half-woman half-donkey character called Hemrat al Ghailah, said to devour little children who play in the heat of the afternoon sun. This story is often told by parents to their children to ensure they stay within the safety of their homes when temperatures are soaring. The film’s title draws its name from the split feet (cloven hooves) possessed by goats, sheep, and deer, and references the tell-tale sign that the “Donkey Lady” is lurking near by: the sound of its hooves clopping in the distance.
Folklore is deeply-rooted in Middle Eastern culture. These traditional folktales from the Gulf (which vary slightly from country to country) are often orally passed down from generation to generation, meaning they could be lost or forgotten if not documented. Cloven is a great attempt by director Mohamed Fakhro to preserve and re-present the story for modern audiences. Lebanese director Mir-Jean Bou Chaaya hopes to do the same with Jinn, Netflix’s first Arabic original drama, which is currently being shot in Amman.
Having premiered some of the most successful films in the horror genre such as Paranormal Activity and The Grudge!, the ScreamFest Horror Film Festival provided a prominent platform for bringing awareness and recognition to films hailing from the region.
Those who didn’t get a chance to attend the 10-day-long festival will be delighted to know that Fakhro has uploaded a 59-second snippet of the spooky, short film onto his Vimeo account. Watch the clip below— only if you dare.