MUHAMMAD BABAR SULEMAN

PORTFOLIO 

01 FOUR BROKEN HEARTS

Tragedy creates new beginnings and love becomes political in ‘Four Broken Hearts’, a Pakistani-American transmedia storyworld encompassing film, live performances, social media and location-based experiences.

QUICK INFO

Project Website

Transmedia

(Film, Live Performance, Social Media, Location Based Experiences)

New York City

2014 - Present

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Previous | Next 

Here are a few of the pieces that make up the Four Broken Hearts storyworld. Some of them are available, forever and globally, on the project's website. Others were ephemeral and local, never to be relived or found again, just 'like life itself'- which, not coincidentally, constitutes the title of my accompanying dissertation that was published in the Journal of Media Practice (Routledge: London).

March | Film A snapshot of the characters in March 2002. Available on the project website in the Backstory section.

March | Film

A snapshot of the characters in March 2002.

Available on the project website in the Backstory section.

September | Film A snapshot of the characters in September 2014. Available on the project website in the Backstory section.

September | Film

A snapshot of the characters in September 2014.

Available on the project website in the Backstory section.

Kirchiyaan |  Location-based experience Hosted in an actual gallery in Manhattan's Upper East Side, 'Kirchiyaan' (a word from the Urdu language meaning 'shards' or 'fragments') is an exhibition of Maha's paintings in 2015. We wanted to use real New York locations for key storyworld places and spaces. Kirchiyaan was, primarily, neither a vehicle for plot progression nor character development. It's raison d'être was to only materialize the 'Setting' of the storyworld within 3D space and with tangible objects (such as the 15 original paintings specially commissioned for this event from a Pakistani artist) that the audience could, respectively, inhabit and interact with.  Conceived and conducted as a realtime event in real space. See video documentation below. You can also visit the website for the gallery or download a catalog from the exhibition. 

Kirchiyaan |  Location-based experience

Hosted in an actual gallery in Manhattan's Upper East Side, 'Kirchiyaan' (a word from the Urdu language meaning 'shards' or 'fragments') is an exhibition of Maha's paintings in 2015. We wanted to use real New York locations for key storyworld places and spaces. Kirchiyaan was, primarily, neither a vehicle for plot progression nor character development. It's raison d'être was to only materialize the 'Setting' of the storyworld within 3D space and with tangible objects (such as the 15 original paintings specially commissioned for this event from a Pakistani artist) that the audience could, respectively, inhabit and interact with. 

Conceived and conducted as a realtime event in real space. See video documentation below. You can also visit the website for the gallery or download a catalog from the exhibition. 

The Dinner | Immersive Live Performance The climax of the story- performed only once and in realtime and real space. To preserve the ephemeral aspect of live theater, we did not film this component and have only kept rehearsal footage on record. You can watch a scene from a rehearsal below: 

The Dinner | Immersive Live Performance

The climax of the story- performed only once and in realtime and real space. To preserve the ephemeral aspect of live theater, we did not film this component and have only kept rehearsal footage on record. You can watch a scene from a rehearsal below: 

{the and} | Participation in actual documentary I met Cannes-winning director Topaz Adizes during my time in New York and we really hit it off. He was in the middle of shooting for his Creative Emmy winning project, {the and}, an interactive documentary. As a fun experiment, we had the fictional couple from my project, Four Broken Hearts, participate in his documentary project, an archive of actual couples asking each other intimate questions. After all, what could be more 'like life itself' than a New York couple participating in a documentary being shot in Brooklyn! The actors were able to improvise a lot for this experience and the results were incredibly moving. Click here to watch Four Broken Hearts couple Zayn and Lisa participating in their {the and} session with password fourbrokenhearts. 

{the and} | Participation in actual documentary

I met Cannes-winning director Topaz Adizes during my time in New York and we really hit it off. He was in the middle of shooting for his Creative Emmy winning project, {the and}, an interactive documentary. As a fun experiment, we had the fictional couple from my project, Four Broken Hearts, participate in his documentary project, an archive of actual couples asking each other intimate questions. After all, what could be more 'like life itself' than a New York couple participating in a documentary being shot in Brooklyn! The actors were able to improvise a lot for this experience and the results were incredibly moving.

Click here to watch Four Broken Hearts couple Zayn and Lisa participating in their {the and} session with password fourbrokenhearts. 

Character via Social Media Depending on their character traits, the principal actors of Four Broken Hearts maintained their Instagram, Twitter, Wordpress Blog and/or Artsy accounts as their fictional counterparts for the users to engage with. Links are available on the Character section of the website. 

Character via Social Media

Depending on their character traits, the principal actors of Four Broken Hearts maintained their Instagram, Twitter, Wordpress Blog and/or Artsy accounts as their fictional counterparts for the users to engage with. Links are available on the Character section of the website

Web and Mobile While our intention was always to create a storyworld that users could discover, in varying degrees, on their own, many of the project pieces are available on the official website and we also ideated on a handy mobile app (accessible as a prototype by clicking here) that could make the experience of the storyworld more navigable for an audience. 

Web and Mobile

While our intention was always to create a storyworld that users could discover, in varying degrees, on their own, many of the project pieces are available on the official website and we also ideated on a handy mobile app (accessible as a prototype by clicking here) that could make the experience of the storyworld more navigable for an audience. 

I was honored to bring Four Broken Hearts back to Pakistan for a showcase at Kuch Khaas, the center for Art & Dialogue, in Islamabad. Click here to read a news story covering the premiere.

I was honored to bring Four Broken Hearts back to Pakistan for a showcase at Kuch Khaas, the center for Art & Dialogue, in Islamabad. Click here to read a news story covering the premiere.

Four Broken Hearts officially premiered at the New Media Film Festival in Los Angeles in June 2015. 

Brief descriptions of the form and story are provided below.

For more information on the media theory underlying the project, check out the companion academic paper (submitted in full as a writing sample). The project and paper together constituted Babar's thesis project at Parsons School of Design in New York where he received his MFA in Design and Technology on a Fulbright scholarship. 

THE FORM

The story of FBH is being told by taking each of the classic elements of fiction – character, setting, exposition, climax and denouement – and bringing them ‘to life’ in the medium that conveys them to the highest degree of mimesis: characters are built and explored through social media, setting is experienced through location-based storytelling, the backstory is fleshed out using film and the climax is performed as an immersive drama. By taking advantage of what each medium does best while complementing the other mediums, FBH is presented in the form of a rich transmedia experience that allows audiences to explore the storyworld across many different platforms while still tying it all together within a cohesive narrative.

THE STORY

What happens when you are forced to face a lover who deserted you twelve years ago? This is the dilemma Pakistani artist Zayn found himself last Fall when he returned to New York for the first time since graduating from art school in 2002. He is accompanied by his wife Lisa, an American photojournalist, who had spent the last few years in Pakistan covering the post-9/11 landscape. Upon her return to New York, Lisa signs a major book deal with heavyweight publisher Aaron but there is one big problem: Aaron is married to Maha, Zayn’s classmate from art school and also his first love. Oblivious to their spouses’ romantic past, Lisa and Aaron make plans for a couples dinner and bring in Zayn and Maha to celebrate. However, the thin veneer of celebration is quickly torn apart by mental and emotional warfare when the painful secrets, repressed feelings, resentment and betrayal simmering over a decade start revealing themselves. In an evening that will change everything they know about each other and the true impact of their choices, all four will have to confront the reality of their lives and relationships, and decide what they are willing- and not willing- to give up for love.

 

CAST

 

Assol Karim as LISA

Brennan Lowery as ZAYN

Gabriela Bonomo as MAHA

Joe Loper as AARON

 

CREW

 

Creator, Director and Storyteller: Babar Suleman

Director of Photography, Art Director, Audio Producer: Alex Tosti

Production Designer, Technologist: Lucy Matchett

Editor, Post-Production: Elia Villa

Storyboard Artist: Daniel Mastretta

Voiceover Artist, Make-up, Understudy: Stephanie Burgess

Tech Support: Jiaqi Liu 

Calligraphy Design for 'Kirchiyaan': Nour Chamoun

Original Artwork for 'Kirchiyaan': Ambreen Zia

App Prototype Design: Meka Montanez

 

Special Thanks: 

 

Anezka Sebek

Barbara Morris

Chris Prentice-Popken

& Nicholas Fortugno

 

Barbara Adams

Nausheen Ishtiaq-Chen

Cecil Chen

Ezgi Ucar

Yuchen Zhang

Topaz Adizes

Julia Gorbach

Kamal Sinclair

Mike Knowlton

Shea Elmore

Jeff Wirth

Christiane Paul

Paul Nicholson