In this guest post, Sky News anchor, broadcaster and journalist Sam Naz explains what inspired her to write and co-produce Liberté, a short film about WW2 secret agent, Noor Inyat Khan.
“I tried to put into music my deep feelings for my sister, Noor. But also to illustrate, as far as I can see it, the various moments of torture and resignation through which she went during those tragic months of her detention.”
I first heard Noor Inayat Khan’s brother, Hidayat, say those words in an interview recorded in 1992 and archived at the Imperial War Museum in London. The music in question is the hauntingly beautiful ‘La Monotonia’ and it would go on to become pivotal in the making of Liberté. As soon as I was given the green light to feature it in the project I’d been working on for several years, I knew we had something special. The film itself focuses on Noor’s final months after being captured by the Nazis, her courage and resilience in the face of horrific brutality - ‘La Monotonia’ was the most fitting of music scores.
It also became a vital part of my ritual in preparing for the shoot. Liberté does not shy away from the horrors of the Nazi regime, and we depict some of Noor’s most difficult moments. The evocative music was key to unlocking a mindset that helped me film those intimate scenes. Noor’s stoic silence, her refusal to crack and her indefatigable loyalty is central to what we explore – it is what makes her a hero. Her brother’s tribute allowed me to block out the noise, centre myself and transport into a world far removed from the realities of the film set.
Noor’s story was one that I wanted to tell in a very different way to the usual approach in TV News where I’ve worked for many years. Over more than a decade of revisiting this tale of heroism, the journalist in me had devoured every detail about Noor’s life: Her background, her character, her drive, her mission... Without even realising it, I had been putting in the hours preparing to play her. All this vital information absorbed.
But to portray her as authentically as possible at that time in her life required embodying the physicality of a complex courageous woman trying to cope with her harrowing situation. A woman who is vulnerable and exhausted, yet strong and defiant.
Noor’s physicality was something I worked on closely with Christopher Hanvey, not only my director and co-producer, but also a boxing coach which came in handy. Weeks of perfecting my jab-cross (in the local park because of Covid lockdown restrictions) helped to strengthen my core and improve my coordination for the stunts. The choreography was crafted with our fight director Kevin McCurdy and rehearsed over Zoom – a steep learning curve that would help me perform some challenging sequences.
Testimonies given after the war by Nazi intelligence chief Hans Josef Kieffer and his associates are held at the National Archives and had become the focus of my script. How those interrogations played out played on my mind, and it’s something I wanted to explore. Christopher led detailed rehearsals for these scenes with my co-star Oliver Boot who plays Kieffer. The film juxtaposes his repeated attempts to get her to talk, with the wall of silence built-up by Noor.
That’s the beauty of film and TV drama. Minimal dialogue can lead to powerful silences – I could feel the rising hairs on the back of my neck during takes. A thrill to perform in a dramatic role where Noor’s presence dominates without words. I had to adapt the on-camera skills I’d developed over my career to portray something far more exposing and raw.
Playing this remarkable woman whose story had got under my skin and left a lasting impression, has been a privilege. I hope Liberté goes a little way in helping us all remember her name: Noor Inayat Khan.
Liberté premieres Tuesday 21st February at 10.15 on Sky HISTORY.