Bay Area cinematographer brings the emotional impact of war to light through “Grey Skies”

A movie is filmed at an Airbnb in San Jose, Calif., on Friday, June 21, 2024. (Shae Hammond/Bay Area News Group)

On a bright and cloudless afternoon, a young girl runs towards a bright blue door screaming, “Open the door! Open the door!” begging to come inside.

Her mother, wearing a grey hijab, chases after her and eventually manages to unlock the door while doing her best to calm her daughter down.

The scene appears in “Grey Skies,” a 15-minute short film about a 7-year-old girl, Sadaf, who has recently immigrated from the Middle East. Because of her past, she is anxious and is particularly afraid of blue skies. Later in the film, she bonds with a homeless U.S. veteran, Ralph, through his violin melodies.

A movie is filmed at an Airbnb in San Jose, Calif., on Friday, June 21, 2024. (Shae Hammond/Bay Area News Group) 

Unnikrishnan Raveendranathan, who goes by Unni Rav, directed “Grey Skies” through the Campbell film company he founded, Visual Narrative Films. Rav and his team of a half-dozen crew members, who come from different parts of the Bay Area, filmed the majority of the scenes in the neighborhood streets of Berryessa in San Jose and at Warm Springs Community Center in Fremont, so he could be near his 16-month-old son.

The budget for “Grey Skies” is around $20,000 and Rav is hoping to show the film at the Toronto International Film Festival and at next year’s South by Southwest Film Festival. He says he was drawn to the story line because it addresses mental health issues.

Esha Bargate, a co-producer and one of the main scriptwriters for the film, said she was inspired to develop the “Grey Skies” concept after reading news articles about a 13-year-old Pakistani boy who really is afraid of blue skies. According to the Atlantic, Zubair told members of Congress in an October 2013 hearing that he doesn’t like clear skies because that is when drones appear in his neighborhood.

Unni Rav, a cinematographer based in the Bay Area, center, directs a movie at an Airbnb in San Jose, Calif., on Friday, June 21, 2024. (Shae Hammond/Bay Area News Group) 

Zubair spoke during one of the first briefings at Congress where U.S. politicians listened to victims from the Middle East describe their personal experiences when they were attacked by military drone strikes.

“I no longer love blue skies. In fact, I now prefer gray skies,” Zubair said in the same article. “The drones do not fly when the skies are gray … When the sky brightens, drones return and we live in fear.”

“When I saw he really enjoys gray skies, cloudy skies, to play outside. That’s a trap. That’s the hook of a story, because most of the Western media, Western people, doesn’t know about all (this) stuff,” Bargate said.

Rav said another major part of the story is how Ralph, the homeless veteran, plays the violin, and in turn, helps the girl calm down and get away from anxiety and depression by listening to music.

In the film, Ralph, who is played by actor Tyler McKenna, wears a dark camo jacket with two military dog tags around his neck. He wakes …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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