'THE SUITCASE' director Abi Damaris Corbin - "Just tell the story authentically, diversity naturally occurs"

Tribeca Film Festival 2017 had some wonderful short films this year. It's a clear example of how the quality of short films is better than ever, and content just keeps getting more interesting, intriguing and exciting. One of those examples was the film THE SUITCASE. The film inspired by true events, tells the story of a Boston bred baggage handler, whose ordinary life is turned upside down when he steals a suitcase that contains terrorist plans of 9/11. 

We talked to Abi Damaris Corbin, the director, writer, and co-producer of THE SUITCASE. Here are the excerpts.

Art Shrian: Congratulations on your wonderful film. It's very well produced, and well made. So, what inspired you to make a movie about 9/11, specially at this time?

Abi Corbin: I do not necessarily consider this a 9/11 story. It's people's story. I'm from Boston, and I particularly remember the news of Boston Marathon bombing. It shook me up. I remember 9/11 myself. Innocence was snatched from Americans on 9/11 and in many ways we’re a generation living in the shadow of that day. Since then America has become inundated with attacks — marathon, subway, school, club; the list is long — and when writing this I was overwhelmed by the desire to affect change. In a world where nothing I did seemed to make a difference, I idealistically wanted to matter. When I came across this story it clicked for me that change makers — real heroes — shaped the world by their integrity in tough everyday moments and actions.

AS: What was the most difficult part of making this film?

AC: We knew jumping into the project the TARMAC LOCATIONS would be our biggest challenge — and it certainly was.  It came to the wire — we were 4 weeks out and not satisfied with airport options. Committed to authentic story telling and high production value, we kept at the search and finally uncovered San Bernardino Airport. Thankfully my editors wife is an excellent cook and her banana bread accompanied by the persuasive powers of myself, the producers and the kindness of the incredible SB staff secured us the tarmac location. We then married San Bernardino’s tarmac with a warehouse and a Boston splinter unit and voila we were had our “Boston Logan Airport.”

AS: What you did there is something all new filmmakers need to learn. Congratulations to you and your producers for making it happen. How was your experience screening your film at Tribeca?

AC: The film’s not complete until you share it with an audience — so WOW — it was gratifying and fulfilling to see an audience take heart from our story. 

Ben Thompson and Sharon Badal, our Tribeca champions, positioned our premiere across from the 9/11 memorial at the Regal Cinema. When we pulled up to screen — seeing the Freedom Tower and the names of victims etched into the memorial gave me spine shivers. It was one of the distinct honors of my life to share this story in NYC.

AS: What's next after this project? Do you plan to evolve this project into something larger or moving to something else?

AC: I’m in the midst of writing a feature film called SWATTED. It’s a cousin to SUITCASE in that it’s about a down on his luck Boston guy who longs to matter – but this story is set against the backdrop of the eSports world. Getting "swatted" is a phenomena in gaming world. And this guy's life changes in a moment, when he gets swatted. It's the story of how far he's willing to go. And what happens from there.

AS: Sounds very interesting. I really look forward to it. Talk to us little bit about being a woman storyteller in the industry. Diversity & Inclusion have become big words in Hollywood. What's your experience been and what's your message to other storytellers?

AC: First and foremost, I'm born a storyteller and born a woman. So I have stories to tell, that are inherently about where I'm from, and who I am. It's not an obstacle. You just embrace, that you are going to tell the stories that I'm born to tell. And you move forward. There may not be tons of diversity behind the camera right now, but there's lot of initiatives going on to improve that. I myself have been part of some of them in several programs, and panels etc. They are striving to make sure that all voices are represented. But more so, just tell your story. That's the most important thing for me. Tell the story authentically and honestly, find the best people that are able to tell that story, and diversity naturally occurs.

AS: Very well said. I cannot agree more. Last, but not the least. What's your most favorite and least favorite thing about NYC?

AC: F. Scott Fitzgerald has this phrase in GATSBY that captures NYC — “The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world.”

For me NYC’s promise isn’t just seen from the bridge — it’s etched all over the city — in the imposing power of the financial district buildings, snapshots of fierce hope at the 9/11 museum, art at the Met, New Yorkers doing life on the Highline in Chelsea… I could go on about NYC haunts all day – but it’s the spirit of promise that makes me want to design my own I love NYC tee.

Least favorite... The train commute between Tribeca and Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn. I lived all the Buzzfeed jokes — the pole hugger, the napper, squeezer — we’re all friends now. Also I’m fairly sure there’s a dude in Brooklyn who owes me a pair of sunglasses – if you’re reading this I want them back!

AS: Well. Someone somewhere is rocking your sunglasses, and probably thanking you right now! Thank you so much for talking to us and many congratulations and All the best. We look forward to hearing more of you. CHEERS!

More about THE SUITCASE:


  • Director: Abi Damaris Corbin

  • Screenwriter: Abi Damaris Corbin

  • Cinematographer: Jon Keng

  • Editor: Chris Witt

  • Composer: Nathan Matthew David

  • Production Designer: Lauren Meyer

  • Executive Producer: Elena Bawiec, Jean de Meuron, Erik Weaver

  • Producer: Abi Damaris Corbin, Drew Diamond, Daniela Ruiz

  • Associate Producer: Chris Witt

  • Supervising Sound Editor/ Re-recording Sound Mixer: Peter Bawiec

  • Casting Director: Selina Ringel

  • Costume Designer: Christine Bald

  • Visual Effects Supervisor: Gregory Jones

  • Cast: Mojean Aria, Joseph D. Reitman, Charley Rossman