Meet Ray, director of ‘La Bayk’

The short film embraces spiritual transformation and the gift of healing

It was six years ago when the eponymous creative Ray began his pursuit of photography. “I stole my father’s film camera and would run around London, capturing the world, it was so cool.” He quickly began shooting people, shows, events and rappers. In 2022, he decided it was time to push his medium to explore other areas besides photography to find new ways in which he could implement storytelling through his work, such as making films. “I just felt like I did everything I could with photography and I wanted to grow a lot more. What is it that I want people to feel when they look at the work? When they engage with it, what kind of reaction am I pulling from people?”

Last year, Ray, who is from North-West London, released his first photography series, The Dua Project: a story which surrounded the themes, “healing through reflection, ablution and redemption”.

“The mercy of hadith is something I wanted to capture in this project, showcasing the nature of healing,” says Ray. He then went on to release two more projects: La Haine and The Heritage Project, which were both inspired by A24 productions and old school Korean films.

The Dua Project. Photograph by Shavez

“Three projects down, a whole year later, we were building a community, learning how to tell a story, how to connect with people. It grew and grew,” he says. By 2024 he was eager to move into film. “My team and I said, ‘We’re ready’. Films have always been the goal. To tell a story has always been the goal.”

Ray’s first ever short film, La Bayk, was self-directed and was composed together with the rest of his creative team, Solace. La Bayk, meaning “I am here” in Arabic, embodies being “rooted in faith” and “showing the relationship between art and faith and how those two things come from the same place”.

Solace is made up of a team of four. Ray being the director and Shavez who is the producer. There is also main cameraman Rayed who also handles post-production and Tiger, who is the main graphic designer.

His ultimate inspiration for the short film lies in higher power and his connection with God, questioning alongside his team how they would create the film “with our relationship with God in mind. How do we do it for the sake of God?”

Still from La Bayk. Photograph by Rayed

Faith and the further nurturing of his connection with his Lord was the driving force in putting together the short film. “I was feeling a lot leading up to the making of La Bayk. I just wanted to process those emotions and put them in a bottle and give them to the audience, in a way.” 

The idea for La Bayk came to Ray in December 2023 during a period of grief in his life. Simultaneously around this time, the opportunity to go to Umrah also presented itself. “I knew that it was going to be a transformative experience. I knew that it was going to be an experience I was going to love and it was going to do a lot for me. It came at a time where I needed that healing most.”

La Bayk was filmed in London and during his time in Umrah (pictured in the last frame of the short film). It was here he embarked on his spiritual journey, which greatly influenced the making of La Bayk. 

I asked Ray if he has ever thought of reinventing any of his previous projects as films. “I think one of them could maybe exist as a film, The Dua Project, because it was so cinematic in quality. I’ve been approached by people to use it as a point of reference in their music videos. But that project was so personal to me that I’ve rejected those and I just wanted to keep it as it was.”

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Ray (@raysolace)

The screening of La Bayk was meant to occur during Ramadan 2024, however due to logistics, the event took place on May 12 at Orange Room, East London. This is also the point in time where Solace’s mission statement ‘Break Bread’ was conceptualised. “It doesn’t need to be Ramadan for us to all come together and break bread together,” Ray says. “We can do that now. We can do that outside the month of Ramadan. We can do that in two months, three months, whenever, wherever. Let us all get together and let us engage with faith and let us engage with art”.

The theme for the sold-out screening event was, ‘A space where art meets faith’ and the scholar Rakin from Rumiscave was in attendance. The topic of the evening revolved around “What is the role of the artist within our faith and how do we create with a higher purpose in mind?”.

In regards to Solace, Ray says “It’s not just a work relationship, it’s a real kind of coming together. It’s to break bread with our people, our bredrins and to invite you into my home. It’s real community, it’s real friendship, it’s real camaraderie”. Solace continues to think of more ways to break bread together. 

Still from La Bayk. Photograph by Rayed

“I wanted to showcase what healing looks like. What transformation looks like. That experience I had out there in Makkah, that transformation, I wanted to convey. It’s not just exclusive to me, everyone and anyone can feel that”.

Essentially, the story of La Bayk is representative of that period in Ray’s life and the shedding of one’s past self to lean into the power of healing. “I think growing up in ends, growing up in this world, in this life, there’s so much that pulls us back. There’s a lot of pain that is present in a lot of our lives but healing is possible. It really is. That’s one thing I really wanted to showcase”. 

“I couldn’t have done it without my team, it was a labour of love,” he continues. “I think that’s the most important thing because that love in the team will translate into the work. I truly 100% feel that”.

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