film premiere and exhibition opening on oct 1st

tomorrow is the big day my friends! come to the premiere of a brand new film about colonial postcards and representation at cinema arts centre in huntington, 2-4pm. the screening will be followed by a discussion with nia adams, farhana huda islam and madeline del toro cherney. earlier, 12-1pm, join us for the opening of an art exhibition at huntington’s history & decorative arts museum. i will give an artist talk there. the huntington art walk will be on tomorrow and it will be a sunny day. get out of the house and join us!

testing ‘return to sender’

tested the film at Cinema Arts Centre today with the wonderful allie zalewski.

it’s always an overwhelming experience for me to see my films on the big screen. the footage for ‘return to sender’ was shot in 2019. i’ve been working on editing and post production almost all of 2023. to then see the product of that labor, in all its glory, on a huge screen with gorgeously clear sound, is incredibly emotional to say the least. how i love what i do.

thank u Urvashi, Sumayia and Fatimah for being the voices of south asian women in this film. thank u dylan and boris for shooting such stunning footage. thank u Rajesh for the beautiful rich colors and Darien for the amazingly well fine-tuned sound.

filmmaking is teamwork and one is only as good as one’s team. proud of what we’ve created together!

come and watch the world premiere in huntington on oct 1 at 2pm. there will be a post screening discussion led by farhana islam, nia adams, and madeline del toro cherney. don’t miss it!

hasan minhaj & the meaning of comedy

quick take on what’s going on with hasan minhaj. he’s a comedian people. and what’s comedy? what’s funny, when u get down to it and deconstruct humor? breaching rules and taboos, defying norms, jumbling together incompatible concepts, reaching unexpected conclusions, and plain old hyperbole. who fact-checks comedy?

i know that every time my husband tells a story, he takes some liberties with the truth – he intensifies, trims, re-contextualizes. that’s how comedy works, even when it incorporates social commentary.

also, just because his stories are constructed around ‘a seed of truth’ and can’t totally pass a polygraph, doesn’t mean that racism and islamophobia don’t exist. u should see some of the comments by white people on social media: “u are the reason we have a racial divide in this country” – i’m sorry, wha?

at a time when AI is fragmenting, distorting and challenging reality, it’s a bit cringy to focus on a brown man’s comedy and turn it into some kind of litmus test for the truth.

Return to Sender Panelists

Friends, as we approach the big day (Return to Sender film premiere at Cinema Arts Centre on Oct 1st), I wanted to give a shout-out to the amazing panelists who will be leading a post screening discussion along with yours truly. Here’s a little more about these remarkable women:

Nia Adams is a community organizer in the Long Island/metro-NY area. As a self-identified liberationist & pan-Africanist, her work is rooted in a multidisciplinary and intergenerational approach to end the carceral system. She is co-director of training at the Advocacy Institute and a Chapter Leader with the Working Families Party, Nassau County Chapter.

Madeline del Toro Cherney is a lecturer in the anthropology department at Stony Brook University. Her research centers on Native and contemporary Latin American culture and its effect on gender identification.

Farhana Huda Islam is a pharmacist, the Digital Strategist and Creative Director of Muslims for Progress, the chair of the Long Island Progressive Coalition, and the creator of a cooking series called Binyskitchen.

You can buy your tickets now from Cinema Arts Centre here.

This project is made possible with funds from the Statewide Community Regrant Program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature and administered by The Huntington Arts Council, Inc.

Libya Fundraiser

Dear all, the death toll from unprecedented flooding in Libya has risen to at least 11,300 people, according to the UN. Another 10,000 people are missing in the city of Derna alone. The devastation and loss of life are apocalyptic: “Videos of the aftermath show water gushing through the port city’s remaining tower blocks and overturned cars, and later, bodies lined up on sidewalks covered with blankets, collected for burial. Residents say the only indication of danger was the loud sound of the dams cracking, with no warning system or evacuation plan.” Since 2011, when Gaddafi was ousted (“We came, we saw, he died,” said Hillary Clinton famously), war and chaos have made Libya extremely vulnerable to natural disasters. This fundraiser is organized by the Libyan Student Association of Canada. 100% of the proceeds are going to the Libyan Red Crescent who are working on the ground in Libya. Pls help them meet their fundraising goal.

A Thin Wall at Westbury Arts

I am thrilled to announce that A THIN WALL, my film about the partition of India, co-produced by Surbhi Dewan, will be screened at Westbury Arts on October 13 at 7:00 PM. The film has been screened all over the world, most recently in London (just this past month). I will be there to lead a discussion afterwards and my mother will be present too. Her stories about this important chapter in human history, and those of other remarkable South Asian women, animate the film. This will be the first time she’ll be at an official screening of the film. Means everything to me. You can register now and buy tickets for reserved seats – pls click here. Hope to see you there!

Earthquake relief in Morocco

Dear friends, the situation is dire in Morocco. Nearly 2500 people have lost their lives. Others are injured, facing loss and devastation. A dear Moroccan friend has shared this fundraiser. Her family is helping people directly. She says:

“My sister knows these communities in the High Atlas after several years of organizing trips with her students to these areas and works with people from this region, who have been directly impacted. The majority of the people from the epicenter region, come from very modest means, and have now lost what little they did have – their homes, their loved ones, their community. My family will be working directly with these families – on the ground – with the support of other trusted Moroccans to ensure that donations are going towards priority needs.”

Many of us have traveled to Morocco and have associations with the country. Pls help as much as you can.

Return to Sender in Look Long Island

A wonderful story about my film, ‘RETURN TO SENDER: Women of Color in Colonial Postcards and the Politics of Representation’ in Look Long Island magazine! pls check them out and join us for the film premiere on Oct 1st, 2-4pm, at Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington. For tickets, click here.

This project is made possible with funds from the Statewide Community Regrant Program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature and administered by The Huntington Arts Council, Inc.

My presentation today

with the brilliant stephanie godard, executive director of the huntington historical society at the end of my presentation today. there were some technical glitches but we pulled thru, due to the strength of the material and gorgeous artwork. at the end of the talk, i gave separate questions to each table and asked them to discuss and respond. the result was vigorous engagement and hopefully some questioning of how we view the ‘other.’ this was at matteo’s of huntington. i will be giving another talk at the conklin farmhouse and barn, 2 high street, huntington, on sept 27, 6-8:00pm. this one will be more cozy and even more interactive. pls register at huntingtonhistoricalsociety.org and join us!

This project is made possible with funds from the Statewide Community Regrant Program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature and administered by The Huntington Arts Council, Inc.

my talk coming up on thursday

my upcoming talk on sept 7th at 12pm at matteo’s of huntington is in the huntington patch.

spent the whole day at the library yesterday writing my talk and organizing beautiful images and videos.

i will be sharing radical art and the work of malek alloula, ramon grosfoguel, laura mulvey, jean paul sartre, john berger, edward said, gilles teulie, frantz fanon, lalla essaydi, and aida muluneh.

we will be talking about the male gaze, the colonial lens, orientalist postcards, and ways of subverting or ‘returning’ that gaze. pls join us and be a part of the discussion.

u can register at huntingtonhistoricalsociety.org – hope to see u there!

This project is made possible with funds from the Statewide Community Regrant Program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature and administered by The Huntington Arts Council, Inc.

Tickets are on sale

I am excited to announce that you can now buy tickets to the premiere of Return to Sender: Women of Color in Colonial Postcards & the Politics of Representation at Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington, NY, on Oct 1st at 2pm! Tickets are inexpensive because we want to include everyone. Reserve your spot now and pls share with friends and fam.

The film will be followed by a panel discussion led by three brilliant women. More about the panelists soon. Here is a film synopsis:

Return to Sender: Women of Color in Colonial Postcards & the Politics of Representation is a short, experimental film directed and produced by Mara Ahmed. It pushes the documentary medium in unexpected ways by opening with three contemporary South Asian American women who recreate British colonial postcards from the early 20th century. Dressed in lavish traditional attire and jewelry and shot exquisitely in a darkened studio, the women emulate the awkward poses of the postcard women, only to subvert the colonial male gaze and acquire autonomy by choosing an action of their own. This symbolic ‘returning’ of the Orientalist gaze is layered with discussions about Eurocentric beauty standards, representations of South Asian women in media and culture, stereotypes, othering, identity and belonging. The film hopes to create community by facilitating conversations about erasure and the politics of representation.

This project is made possible with funds from the Statewide Community Regrant Program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature and administered by The Huntington Arts Council, Inc.

Return to Sender: Lunch & Learn coming up

I will be talking about my upcoming film ‘Return to Sender: Women of Color in Colonial Postcards & the Politics of Representaiton’ at the @huntingtonhistoricalsociety’s Lunch & Learn on Sept 7th at Matteo’s of Huntington. Pls join us. Tickets at HuntingtonHistoricalSociety.org

Best known for her non-linear interdisciplinary work, filmmaker Mara Ahmed produces documentaries, soundscapes, and artwork that trespass political borders and challenge colonial logics. Mara was born in Lahore and educated in Belgium, Pakistan, and the US. Her art practice reflects these displacements and multiplicities. Her documentaries have been broadcast on PBS and screened at international film festivals. She is currently working on The Injured Body, a documentary about racism in America. Mara will make a multimedia presentation about her NYSCA-funded project, Return to Sender: Women of Color in Colonial Postcards & the Politics of Representation.

She will provide some historical context for this project including the decision to focus on colonial postcards from the early 20th century, the construction of women of color as a phantasm, the male gaze and the objectification of women, as well as decolonial ways to challenge stereotypes. The presentation will include video, images, and literary excerpts. It will be designed to encourage a vibrant discussion.

Pricing: Members: $50, Non-Members: $60 [Includes three-course meal + wine + dessert]

When: Thursday Sept 7th, 12-2pm

Where: Matteo’s of Huntington, 300 W Jericho Turnpike, Huntington Station, NY

Register at HuntingtonHistoricalSociety.org

This project is made possible with funds from the Statewide Community Regrant Program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature and administered by The Huntington Arts Council, Inc.

A Thin Wall – UK screenings in August

Super excited that our film, A Thin Wall (which I co-produced with Surbhi Dewan), will be shown at the Museum At One Garden City in the UK. The screenings will be at 12pm, 3pm, and 6pm on Saturday August 26. These screenings are part of South Asian Heritage Month at the Museum. Pls attend if you are in the area.
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Repost from @reeln_uk:

ReelN presents South Asian Heritage Month at Museum At One Garden City, with an introductory exhibition featuring local South Asian stories and their contribution to the world’s first garden city!

This is an ongoing project and we want to hear from South Asian residents to record their stories of living and growing up in Letchworth Garden City.

The exhibition will be on display following a private launch event on Friday 21st July to August end and will be free to attend. Featuring stories about local football heroes, ‘Singh Sabha FC’, Dance celebrities ‘The Twilight Players’ and community members who have contributed to South Asian life and industry locally.

The exhibition closing event will also feature India, Pakistan documentary film, ‘A Thin Wall’ by filmmakers Mara Ahmed and Surbhi to be shown at 12pm, 3pm and 6pm on Saturday 26th August, also at the museum and free to attend.

There will be a full ‘Singh Sabha FC’ exhibition in collaboration with the museum in May 2024! -you heard it here first!

Join us to celebrate these local heroes!

Please direct any questions to hello@reeln.co.uk

Return to Sender – Official Trailer

I am thrilled to share the trailer for Return to Sender: Women of Color in Colonial Postcards & the Politics of Representation. It’s a short film that explores Orientalist images of Indian women, circulated as postcards, during the British Raj. It opens up a conversation about objectification, beauty standards, identity, the colonial male gaze, and otherness. The film will premiere on Oct 1st at Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington, NY, and will be followed by a community discussion. Thank you Dylan Toombs and Boris Sapozhnikov for this beautiful footage and Fatimah Arshad, Urvashi Bhattacharya and Sumayia Islam for your brilliant convo and performance in the film. We are almost done with color grading and graphics (thank you Rajesh Barnabas) and are getting ready for sound engineering. Thank you Patty Eljaiek, the Huntington Arts Council, Inc., Stephanie Godard, and the Huntington Historical Society for all your amazing support with this project!

This project is made possible with funds from the Statewide Community Regrant Program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature and administered by The Huntington Arts Council, Inc.

all human lives are not equal

fortress europe’s racism and contempt for human life shouldn’t shock us anymore. but it does. more than 700 people – including children – might have drowned in the mediterranean sea. many pakistanis were forced below deck. cannot imagine the horror and grief of their families. all this criminal neglect and inhumanity while rescuers ‘race against time’ and ‘massive search and rescue’ missions are underway to find 5 hyper rich people checking out the titanic’s wreckage. the contrast is obscene.