The longest-running horror film festival in America, ScreamFest, screened its first ever Bahraini short horror movie in LA last week. Cloven, the six minute short debuted in this year’s “Horror Shorts” lineup and was produced, directed, and acted-in by an entirely Bahraini cast and crew.
The spooky clip stars Reem Erhama and Mubarak Khamis Zayed, and is based on a traditional Bahraini folktale “Hemrat al Ghailah”, which translates to “Donkey Lady”. The story depicts a malicious half-donkey, half-woman character called Hemrat al Ghailah, who is known to devour children who play in the heat of the afternoon sun. This folk-story has been passed down for generations and is told my parents to their children to ensure that they stay within the safety of their homes when it’s too hot outside. The title, Cloven, comes from the split hooves possessed by sheep, goats, and deer and also refers to signals that the “Donkey Lady” is nearby from the sound of hooves in the distance.
This short horror film by director Mohamed Fakhro is an attempt to retell the traditional story from the Gulf, to a modern audience as folklore has deep roots within Arab culture. Akin to fairy tales of the likes of Cinderella and Jack and the Beanstalk, these stories have been passed down orally through generations and all bear a life’s lesson. Lebanese director Mir-Jean Bou Chaaya also hopes to preserve and share Middle Eastern folklore with Jinn, Netflix’s first Arabic original drama.
The ScreamFest Horror Film Festival is known to have premiered some of the most famous films within the genre, including Paranormal Activity and The Grudge. The festival provides a strong platform for raising awareness and recognizes international talent.
If you want to catch a glimpse of Fakhro’s Cloven, you can catch a 60 second clip of the short film on his Vimeo account - if you’re not afraid that is.