Hampstead Garden Suburb father and Hollywood producer dies from Covid
- Credit: Kathryn Wolfe
My remarkable husband Arif Hussein was an actor, screen writer, film producer, winner dozens of international film festival awards, and a Hollywood executive producer. Tragically he died from Covid-19 on January 20, aged 63 years old.
Arif was born in Singapore to parents from Lahore. After spending six months in a refugee camp in Lahore’s Shalamar Gardens, Arif, his mother and siblings moved to the UK in 1969 when Arif was 11 years old, becoming reunited with his father who had presumed them dead.
These early experiences of being displaced, homeless and fatherless for nine years never left Arif, and they became a crucial part of his work in later life.
He attended Mountview Theatre School in Crouch End from 1980 to 1983 to study acting and he created Alma Mater Theatre Company, with patrons Peter Ustinov and Derek Jacobi.
For six years he performed, wrote and directed plays at his fringe venue, Taurus Theatre, Tufnell Park Tavern.
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We met in 1992 at London Weekend Television when Arif was cast in a drama reconstruction I was directing for Michael Winner’s True Crimes.
Ever romantic, and knowing my fear of flying, he proposed to me on route to Majorca as the plane was on the runway.
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He asked me to pull on a red thread hanging from his jacket pocket, on the end of which was the engagement ring!
It stopped me worrying about take-off. We married in London in 1996, and had a blissfully happy 24 years.
In 2001 Arif was invited to study a Master’s in screenwriting by the Northern Film School with a bursary from Film4.
In the same year he set up Kaos Films (named after Kathryn, Arif, Omar and Soraya) creating the British Short Screenplay Competition, described by Kenneth Branagh as “the best and the most prestigious screenplay competition in the world”.
It was the only screenplay competition that made the winning screenplay into a 35mm short film, and several of the shorts Arif produced won International Film Festivals, including: The Handyman starring Greta Scacchi, winner of Best Film at Sitges, Dubrovnic, San Francisco Lights, Austin, Rhode Island; The Stars Don’t Twinkle In Outer Space, winner of Best Film, Rhode Island, Palm Springs; The Happiness Salesman starring Christopher Eccleston and Archie Panjabi, winner of Best Narrative, Rhode Island.
From 2008 to 2011 Arif was visiting screenwriting lecturer at Middlesex University, and University of Bedfordshire; and speaker at The Comedy Writers Society, London College of Communication and Screenwriter’s Festival, Cheltenham.
Arif was the most hospitable and helpful neighbour, the one to go to if you needed anything.
When our next door neighbour who suffered from MS fell over in her house and was unable to open the door, Arif thought nothing of climbing in through a small window, whilst being bitten by her two dachshunds, and then carrying the neighbour safely to her chair.
In March 2020, when the first lockdown was announced, Arif placed an announcement on the Hampstead Garden Suburb list to ask if anyone would like some pakoras (Indian savoury snacks) and received 25 orders.
After spending the day shopping and cooking Arif delivered them all individually. He did it again in April and May, each time the list grew bigger.
The May delivery coincided with Ramadan, which meant Arif himself was fasting during long daylight hours, yet he still cooked and distributed food.
An amazing parent, Arif wrote letters for our children to keep with them as they went through life, with tears he read out his guidance on how to live a good life and care for others.
Arif’s feature length screenplays are in various stages of development. He was particularly affected by news stories about refugees, especially those drowned at sea. Arif tracked down 10 survivors scattered across the world, met them, heard their stories and contacted Hollywood producers.
It resulted in Arif being signed up as executive producer with Steven Spielberg and JJ Abrams on a joint feature film to be produced by Paramount. We hope this film will be his legacy.
Arif is survived by his wife Kathryn Wolfe, and his children Omar, 24, and Soraya, 22.
To donate to a fundraiser in Arif’s name, visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/the-arif-hussein-project