Return to Sender | Rochester Premiere at ROC Cinema

Return to Sender: Women of Color in Colonial Postcards & the Politics of Representation is coming to Rochester, New York, on May 4th at 12pm.

The screening will be followed by a panelist discussion. Seating is limited. You can buy your tickets below.

PROGRAM DETAILS: Come join us for the Rochester premiere of Mara Ahmed’s Return to Sender, an afternoon of film & community discussion at ROC Cinema! 

Return to Sender: Women of Color in Colonial Postcards & the Politics of Representation is a short, experimental film directed and produced by Mara Ahmed. This project was funded by a NYSCA grant. 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.

Join us for an afternoon of movie magic at ROC Cinema. You will be transported into a world of early 20th century postcards and all the conversations they provoke. Be part of the discussion with panelists Urvashi Bhattacharya, Hernease Davis and Sumayia Islam, as well as Director Mara Ahmed. Don’t miss out on this exclusive event – mark your calendars now! See you there!

DATE: Saturday, May 4, 12:00 – 2:00 PM

VENUE: ROC Cinema (957 S Clinton Avenue, Rochester, NY 14620) is a luxury theater featuring the latest food trends, drinks, and first class entertainment. You’ll have an electrifying night, while watching a movie.

PANELISTS: Learn more about panelists Hernease Davis, Urvashi Bhattacharya and Sumayia Islam here.

FILM REVIEW: Read Cathy Salibian’s brilliant film review in the Rochester Beacon here.

Return to Sender screening at Stony Brook University

What a wonderfully organized screening of ‘Return to Sender: Women of Color in Colonial Postcards & the Politics of Representation’ at Stony Brook University’s Humanities Institute. A thrill to work with Liz Montegary, Chairperson of Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies at Stony Brook, and to be a panelist along with Avina Mathias and Emelyn Pareja-Garcia who both did an internship on this project. So many amazing friends and neighbors in the audience and then dinner at Ixchel Mexican Cuisine to end the night on a high note.

Visual Studies Workshop: In Dialogue with Mara Ahmed

I am thrilled to announce that I will be coming to Rochester, NY, on March 28th to present a dialogue between my work on colonial postcards and the Visual Studies Workshop’s film and lantern slide archives!

This will be an exciting conversation where we will see clips from my new film, about the aftershocks of colonialism, juxtaposed against film clips from Rochester in the 1970s that talk about police control and violence. We will make connections to current political power systems and pay special attention to the representations of women from the global south and white feminism. I make a lot of presentations, but this is the first time I have engaged with an institution’s archives and located my work within that framework.

Pls join us and add to the convo. You can register here.

Here is more info from the VSW’s website:

Mara Ahmed is an interdisciplinary artist and award winning activist filmmaker. Mara’s documentaries center marginalized voices and have focused on communities grappling with nuanced experiences around racism, colonization and islamophobia. She will present a program that incorporates her work with postcards, lantern slides and films she has researched and chosen from the VSW archive. Mara will also present clips from her latest film, Return to Sender: Women of Color in Colonial Postcards & the Politics of Representation, which was awarded a NYSCA film grant, and will premiere at a future time in Rochester.

The evening will culminate in a discussion with Mara Ahmed facilitated by Hernease Davis, the Assistant Curator of Education and Public Programs. This program will also be livestreamed via

Stills from Return to Sender: Sumayia Islam, Fatimah Arshad, Urvashi Bhattacharya

screening of ‘a thin wall’ on oct 13th at westbury arts

pls join us for a screening of ‘a thin wall,’ a film about stories from the partition of india under british colonial rule.

on friday oct 13 at 7pm at Westbury Arts. i will be there to take questions at the end of the film.

the violence we are seeing in the middle east and elsewhere should be located within the context of european colonialism and the mutilation of land. on indigenous peoples’ day, it’s more important than ever to pledge our solidarity with all those under occupation and fight for land back.

film premiere at cinema arts

return to sender: women of color in colonial postcards & the politics of representation – film premiere at Cinema Arts Centre:

what a day yesterday! sharing a film with the world for the first time after months (sometimes years) of work, collaborations, and non-stop revisions, is something remarkable, a high that’s hard to describe. and then being surrounded by family, friends and community, to feel that love and engagement, is beyond thrilling. there are many many thanks, as always, but i want to start with the young people who attended the film screening and added so much color and depth to the conversation that went on for 1 1/2 hours. i am constantly impressed by the knowledge, thoughtfulness, and bold imagination of our young people. it’s something electric to be in their company and think together. here are some of the beautiful young folx in the audience yesterday. thank u!

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!

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.

New exhibition at Huntington’s History & Decorative Arts Museum

Today I was able to hang the art exhibition ‘Return to Sender’ at Huntington’s History & Decorative Arts Museum with the amazing Emily Werner! 16 gorgeous photographs by Dylan Toombs and myself, 3 digital collages that celebrate South Asian architecture and fabric made by yours truly, quotes from the film that lift the voices of South Asian women, and an exhibition catalog one can access via QR code which details the history behind Orientalist postcards and the colonial male gaze (the catalog also has brilliant and moving personal essays written by my Stony Brook University interns Avina Mathias and Emelyn Pareja-Garcia). Hope you can check it out!

Opening Reception on Sunday October 1st, 12:00 – 1:00 pm
Exhibit will be on display from September 17th to October 15th
Venue: Huntington’s History & Decorative Arts Museum
at the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Building, 228 Main Street, Huntington
Hours: Tuesdays through Sundays (12:00 – 4:00 pm)
Pls call 631-427-7045 to see the exhibit outside regular visiting hours

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 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!

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.


i have been so insanely busy working on talks, an art exhibition and a film, and promoting as well as collaborating on the execution of numerous events, that i have not spent much time simply hanging out with ammi abbu. last night i took a small break. made some barbecue chicken pizza and a big salad with a spicy mango dressing. then watched mughal-e-azam (1960) with my parents. an indian classic set in emperor akbar’s court, the film is kitschy of course and requires the suspension of disbelief, but i have to say, i was captivated by madhubala. her real name was mumtaz jehan begum dehlavi. she was born in delhi in 1933. not just a beauty. there’s something magnetic about her screen presence. the film is two hours long and we were up until midnight but what a lovely way to spend an evening with my ammi abbu. #grateful