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Arts & Entertainment

An Award-Winning SXSW Short Gave a Dallas Filmmaker an Outlet for Her Grief

Sara Nimeh balances humor and poignancy in a coming-of-age drama inspired by her childhood memories.
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A.J. Lister stars in Jedo’s Dead. Interlochen Cinema Collective

Sara Nimeh is confident that Jedo’s Dead will resonate across cultural and geographic boundaries. It’s from a Dallas filmmaker, was shot in Michigan, and is based on a Lebanese family from Oklahoma.

Nimeh’s 11-minute drama, inspired by her own childhood recollections, was the winner of the Texas Shorts Competition at the recent SXSW Film & TV Festival in Austin, where it had its world premiere. The film is set in 2001, when a young girl and her brother return home from school to find their grandfather dead in his bed. They try to process their grief in ways both comical and melancholic, in ways that mix adolescent naïveté with faith-based traditions.

“I wanted to have them go through the process of understanding and the curiosity and innocence and figuring it out,” Nimeh said. “She tries to fix everything, but in the end, she just had to let go.”

The director grew up in Lawton, Oklahoma, as part of a family that included a “fake grandpa,” who died in 2020, flooding her mind with memories. The protagonist became very much a younger version of herself.

“We were raised in this weird fusion of this cowboy world, but were very Lebanese. The blend of the two is very lovely,” she said. “In Lebanon, religion is very traditional. When tragedy happens, you tend to lean on that.”

She still maintains strong ties to her heritage, visiting Lebanon most years during the fall olive harvest, although her 2023 plans were canceled by ongoing unrest in the region. Nimeh earned a film degree from SMU and has been working for a more than a decade behind the scenes on commercials, television shows, and movies produced in North Texas.

However, Jedo’s Dead took her back to northern Michigan, where she attended a performing arts academy and camp as a teenager. It became the first project for the Interlochen Cinema Collective, which involves the school’s alumni, faculty, and current students.

The young girl is played by A.J. Lister, who has a supporting role in the upcoming Luca Guadagnino feature Challengers. Among the collaborators closer to home are Dallas producer Jeff Walker and editor Courtney Ware.

After winning the SXSW prize, Nimeh hopes the short will gain wider visibility and lead to greater opportunities. She also wants moviegoers to share the emotional impact of her cathartic story about her beloved family patriarch.

“This is the closest I’ve gotten to my voice as a storyteller,” Nimeh said. “I had to let him go in the script.”

Author

Todd Jorgenson

Todd Jorgenson

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