MEET PAM NASR
In this dialogue, we explore Pam's journey as a Film Director and how Mukbang, an online eating phenomenon, as well as Dali’s Les Diners de Gala, inspired her recent feature "Clams Casino." Hear how an upbringing in Dubai, Beirut and, a recent move to New York have all crossed ties to create an unshakable foundation as a young artist just getting started.
How would you describe your journey as a filmmaker thus far?
It has been the most fulfilling process I have been through yet. There’s nothing more beautiful than the collaborative aspect of filmmaking; a group of people working hard together to reach a goal in order to create something meaningful. Being able to tour the film and hear how people connected to it was so eye opening and more than I could ask for! It was also quite overwhelming to have some of my crew with way more experience than me trust my vision and direction, I’ll always be grateful for them.
How do you feel your art and identity as a female artist have been shaped or affected by the places you’ve lived?
I’m a city girl, and was raised around people from all walks of life. I grew up in Dubai, moved to London for college, then to Beirut and finally here in New York. I got to experience what it means to be an Arab woman in all those cities while exploring the many different cultures that surrounded me. These experiences have shaped how I view the world and transcended to my work as an artist. I’ve learnt to speak loud and clear about what I need, while staying true to my identity.
What encouraged your move to the Middle East?
I felt so far away from my Lebanese culture, I had a deep urge to live in Lebanon and explore my country as an adult and on my own terms. Though there is a large population of Lebanese people in Dubai, it doesn’t equate to living there as Lebanon’s culture is deeply rooted in the soul of its land and its people.
Mukbang is an online eating phenomenon, which you explore in your film “Clams Casino,” what does the performative consumption of food represent for you?
Mukbang in particular, represents loneliness for me. It originated in South Korea, though the way it’s been Westernized and commercialized today via platforms like instagram and youtube, has done it a disservice. When I was researching Mukbang, I found that often this was the user’s way of creating a solution in order to experience some sort of closeness and affection, while forming their own community. Cooking for others is a symbol of care taking, when Mukbang hosts are seen cooking and consuming their food, this can be understood as their way of calling for closeness and satiation.
How did you come to explore the phenomenon of Mukbang?
I came across a documentary called “The Food Porn Superstars of South Korea” on Munchies. I was immediately drawn to it and felt the need to dig deeper and humanize it — are they really “food porn stars?” I wanted to communicate how a phenomenon which may seem strange or absurd at first, may be one that we can all relate to if we take the time to study and deconstruct it.
Do you feel that there is a direct correspondence between your work in fashion and your work as a filmmaker?
Absolutely. My background in fashion has really shaped the way I see my potential in making films. It has served me a generous base to direct pictures and allowed me to set my personal tone. I find that a film is really only fully complete when the smallest details are addressed. The layers, colors and composition found in fashion translate to tie in the aesthetic elements that can be an additional language to flesh out the message of the film.
In “Clams Casino” you focused on style that is representative of the 1970s and 1980s, what elements of these two era’s, both socially and aesthetically appeal to you?
As a kid growing up in Dubai, my exposure to the rest of the world was via music and cinema. The energy and spirit of these eras always evoked a sense of experimentation, sexiness and freedom in me. Ironically, Lebanon is stuck in a 70s time warp due to its 15 year long civil war; but its scars, though extremely deep and painful, exemplify its character and strength. Its beauty is timeless, and its roots are more ingrained in my narrative the more and more I dig.
The set design in “Clams Casino” is very well considered, mainly your exploration of gaudiness, indulgence, and isolation, did you have a primary source of inspiration?
I really wanted to visually communicate a family home that had been furnished around the 80s that wasn't modernized, a lot like the one I grew up in, and without making it feel like a period piece. I was also completely inspired by the houses throughout Goodfellas. Much later, I realized that there’s a parallel there as they were also furnished by women who were often neglected or they themselves were lonely too. As for the Mukbang feast, I was drawn to the humor and excess in Dali’s Les Diners de Gala and the wobbling jell-O salads of the 80s.
As a female-identifying creative, how have you found navigating the creative scene in New York since your recent move?
It’s been beautiful! People here are so hungry and work so hard — that energy is contagious, they’ve also been pretty open and helpful. I spent all of last year in my own little cocoon working strictly towards Clams Casino. This year is more about collaborations, I’m just getting started!
What was your experience as a creative woman living in Beirut?
I get this question a lot and most people would take this as a surprise, but women are the ultimate bosses in Beirut’s creative fields. It’s the perfect place to be in — it’s raw and endlessly inspiring. It allows an artist to work with the realism of the region, we have a lot going on and it’s important for me to be cognisant of that in my work.
Do you have any creative projects on the horizon?
I’ve been working on an on-going personal project called Miss Lebanon which premiered at Art Basel Miami last month. I’m also working on developing a vignette which I’m super excited about but can’t disclose just yet, and meanwhile, directing a music video and short fashion film.
Maimoun comes from the Persian language word meaning to welcome guests into your home. If you could invite anyone to dinner in your home, who would it be?
It would be my dad, he still hasn’t been able to visit my new home in New York and I can’t wait to cook for him.