The fairytales of Mahmoud Al Massad

‘The fairytales of Mahmoud Al Massad’ tells the story of a man who created a unique Middle Eastern image of Utrecht in his film ‘Shatter Hassan’.

Mahmoud al Massad

A trail of pieces of aluminum foil led Palestinian documentary maker Mahmoud Al Massad through al the beautiful places in Utrecht’s old city centre. He encountered the homeless here, who often gather in these places to use drugs without getting bothered, and used this scenery to film his amazing poem on Utrecht: ‘Shatter Hassan’. The film was screened on many festivals where everyone wondered if this fairytale like city was real or a computer animation. 


It was real, but it had been quite a process to create the film. Al Massad followed Hassan, a homeless man, for three years. Sometimes he lost him for weeks and sometimes it would become difficult to keep a distance while filming and to not get drawn into the Hassan’s rough life. “The worst place in my film was the tunnel under shopping mall Hoog Catharijne, which has been shut down now. It was horrible there: dirty, rough and violent”.


Al Massad takes us to a few places where Hassan would sit privately, often unseen by the ordinary shopping audience in the streets. The Maria Corner for example, or the area between the Springweg and the Oudegracht, where the peacefulness and harmony contradicted intensely with the harsh reality of Hassan’s every day life.


After Shatter Hassan, Al Massad’s career took him abroad, where he was both acting and directing. His documentary Recycle, on a Jordan father who tries to maintain his family during a tense political situation won an award on the prestigious Sundance Film Festival in 2007.

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