NEWBORN: What’s In A Name? For Two New Parents, It Means Their Child’s Future

The name you’re born with is bound to have a story behind it, as does the history and heritage of that name. However, in the acclaimed short film Newborn, two soon-to-be parents learn that their heritage can also be a source of contention in a world where certain ethnic and racial communities are treated with total disdain by citizens and politicians.

Written and directed by Ray Savaya, Newborn won Best International Short Film at the Louisiana International Film Festival in Baton Rouge, La. in April of 2018. It will next be featured on May 14th at the Future Of Film Showcase in Toronto, Canada.

The film co-stars Samy Osman as Samir and Dalal Badr as Linda, whose inner struggles with their ethnicity spill over into a conflict over their decision on what to name their newborn baby. That choice will have major consequences for the futures of both the new parents and their new child.

The subject examined in Newborn — ethnic identity — is something that Savaya himself has grappled with in the past, and the complexities of that topic made making the short an emotionally challenging yet ultimately fulfilling accomplishment.

“The film is inspired by real life conversations I had about my own name,” he says. “Even though I’ve always gone by ‘Ray’, I wanted to explore the uncomfortable topic of why I preferred to go by a more anglicized name rather than my full name, which sounds more ethnic/Middle Eastern. It was a tough project to write, but I’m really happy with the end result and I appreciate all the honors it has been receiving.”

Samy Osman as soon-to-be father Samir in writer/director Ray Savaya’s award-winning short film NEWBORN.

Badr and Osman were brought to Newborn by its casting director Tom Cable Rees. The film’s two adult leads delivered palpable levels of interpersonal tension and bittersweet poignancy to their interpretation of Savaya’s screenplay.

“I was specifically looking for people who understood the story and who could perform a tough yet vulnerable performance,” adds Savaya. “They’ve both worked on countless notable projects in their careers, and I’m so thankful to have collaborated with them.”

While it was easy for Savaya and Rees to find Newborn’s grown-up cast, it wasn’t easy for them to find the baby who’d play their first child in the film. Thanks to a mutual connection, that task was achieved. “He (Jacob) was only a couple weeks old at the time. I’m very grateful for Jacob’s parents, Kevin and Lindsey. I met them through my friend, who is their cousin.”

Newborn’s actors and crew clearly made every second count during the limited time they had to make the film. “We had one shooting day, which was an overnight shoot,” Savaya explains. “We had a very small crew and limited time. A big portion of the team was from our cinematographer, Ali Khurshid. I feel lucky to have a talented cast and crew who could pull off incredible work in a circumstance like this.”

Newborn was a true success among moviegoers at the Louisiana International Film Festival, and among the festival’s awards jury panel, who gave Savaya’s film LIFF’s Best International Short Film Award. “It played in a beautiful theatre and the audience responded to the film very well,” remembers Savaya.

Those achievements were part of a prosperous weekend for the filmmaker, who hopes that his first time at the festival will lead to repeated trips — and presentations of his newest films — at LIFF. “I met a lot of great people at the festival and I hope to stay in contact with them. It was a great trip and I hope to be part of the festival again for another film.”

Its accolades aside, Newborn has already succeeded in starting an important conversation about how parents in marginalized communities are forced to make hard choices for their children — and for the children they’ll have in the future.

“I’m very grateful that audience members have been finding it relatable and telling me their stories about this very same issue,” Savaya says of the reaction to his film. “I hope people discuss the film’s topic after viewing. We’ve been getting a great response, and I hope its success continues.”

For more updates on Newborn, and on Savaya’s upcoming film projects, visit these links:

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Chris Hadley

Writer, @SnobbyRobot, @FSMOnlineMag, Writer/Creator, @LateLateNewsTV