By George Basler

Redouane Elghazi developed his passion for filmmaking as a teenager in his native Morocco, His father was a screenwriter, and his mother was a fan of Egyptian movies that they watched together.

This passion was reinforced by watching American films of the 1980s and 1990s. “I got hooked on how much films can influence emotions,” he said.

The 33-year-old Southern Tier resident, who came to the United States 13 years ago, works in the IT department of an Ithaca bank, but his passion for film and filmmaking remains very much alive. This past week he debuted his latest directorial effort, The Clay Wife, at a preview screening for cast and crew.

The short, 20-minute film mixes realistic and mystical elements as it tells the story how a grieving husband, whose wife has died in childbirth, is comforted when the woman’s spirit returns for a day. The title refers to a clay doll with magical properties that bring the woman back to life.

Elghazi co-wrote the script with Chad Dann and Michael J. Rudolph. He directed the film with the help of Yohance Bailey, a Binghamton-based photographer, who worked as assistant director and co-producer. They shot the film last year using actors from Broome County, Syracuse and Buffalo.

“Everyone invested their souls into it. There is no idea to make money. It’s to showcase what we can do for the community,” Bailey said.

The Clay Wife is the third short film director by Elghazi. The previous two, Melancholia and The Salesman, can be viewed on YouTube and Prime Video.

The Clay Wife is his most elaborate production to date. “A passion project is the appropriate term,” Elghazi said. “We pretty much produced it from our own pockets.”

Rudolph, who worked as the film’s director of photography as well as co-writer, shot the film using a Black Magic 4K pocket camera at various locations in the Southern Tier, including an antiques shop and park in Binghamton.

The Clay Wife has a personal meaning for Elghazi, whose mother died three months after he came to the U.S., and he couldn’t return for the funeral. “It always stayed with me,” he said. “I wanted to tell a story that might help me move on in a way and, while not accepting it, be at peace with it.”

The film’s production values are first-rate despite its low budget. Elghazi tells the story clearly, drawing solid performances from the cast members, notably Vito Longo as the despondent husband.

The filmmaker, who hopes the film connects emotionally with audience members, is planning a public screeningin February at Cinema Saver in Endicott. The date is still to be determined. The creators then plan to take the finished product to film festivals for viewing by wider audiences.

“I’ll always be doing movies on the side,” Elghazi said. “I’m just growing as a filmmaker.”

More information and videos of The Clay Wife can be found on the movie’s Facebook page.