Nominated for a Golden Bear at Berlinale Shorts 2016, Bentley Brown’s deeply personal 22-min documentary Oustaz is an inventive and emotive film created in the wake of the death of the director’s “artistic mentor”. Created from home videos shot over a 15-year span, the filmmaker looks back at his life growing up in Chad and uses the creation of this short as a way to remember his friend and grieve his death.
Interested in investigating the distinction between fiction and non-fiction and in particular how elements of falsehood can infiltrate our memories, Brown explains that he “returned to old home videos to see if I could craft a narrative of the times we made our first music and movies together”.
Aiming to explore his relationship with the titular Oustaz (which translates to ‘teacher’), a man who he admits both inspired and intimidated him, the director used his film to “challenge some of the memories I retain of him”, whilst also pondering whether someone (maybe himself), “will fill his absence”.
At 22-minutes long with a somewhat leisurely beginning, Oustaz is a short that certainly demands a modicum of patience to reap the rewards of its insightful, engaging filmmaking. Stick with it though, as it’s a truly a distinct and original short that only gets better and more impactful as it picks up pace and immerses you further and further into its universe.
Now working on Wald ad-Daktor, a feature-length companion film to Oustaz, created from the same archive of home videos, Bentley is also directing a non-fiction project that explores the filmmaking challenges in Saudi Arabia and also exec-producing The Great Muse, a feature drama from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.