we are lady parts

watched the first 4 episodes of ‘we are lady parts.’ wow. it’s one of the best shows i’ve seen. ever. nida manzoor (the writer, creator, director) is an absolute genius. how long have we (muslim/brown) women waited for something like this. can a show this creative and trope-free even be produced in america? i hope so. we need more.

Interview with asianculturevulture.com

An interview with asianculturevulture.com about our documentary film, A Thin Wall, which will be available to watch in the UK, as a way to mark the independence of Pakistan and India:

“THERE’S an opportunity to catch a poignant, moving and powerful documentary about the Partition and hear two filmmakers talk about its making and their own families’ experiences of living across what became a tragic divide.

‘A Thin Wall’ will be available for a week to UK audiences on the Modern Films platform from this Friday (August 13) and a ticket includes a pre-recorded Q&A with director Mara Ahmed and co-producer Surbhi Dewan.”

“This part of the world has always been incredibly diverse. To want to uproot, disenfranchise, oppress, and eliminate minorities is the stuff of nightmares. It is a continuation of colonial ‘divide and rule’ policies. We need to work together on poverty alleviation, healthcare, employment, and education. We ought to focus on climate change and ways to ensure water and sustainability. This is what will make or break us, not some imagined religious or ethnic purity.” (Mara Ahmed)

The film is screening as part of events marking the Partition and independence for both Pakistan (August 14) and India (August 15).

Pakistan One on One is now on Vimeo

Friends, I am thrilled to share that in addition to The Muslims I Know, you can also watch my second film online. Pakistan One on One (2011) was shot in Lahore. It’s a fascinating series of conversations with a wide range of Pakistanis (including students, shopkeepers, real estate agents, tailors, teachers, and the incredibly gracious Navid Shahzad). We talk about the War on Terror, the Taliban (a hot topic once again as we move closer to the US exit from Afghanistan), and what Pakistanis think of US foreign policy and Americans. Most interviews are shot outdoors, on location, and they shine with the freshness and vitality of Hassan Zaman’s funky music and Liz Phillips’s quirky visuals and transitions. It’s a film I’m very fond of. Pls watch and support activist filmmaking here.

Watch The Muslims I Know Online Vimeo On Demand

Friends, since people don’t buy DVDs as much anymore, The Muslims I Know (2008) is now available to watch online. Give it a try and let me know what you think of the film. There’s also bonus footage you can watch from interviews I conducted back then with Thomas Gibson and Ruhi Maker, Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons, and Edward Kannyo.

the great cat ashworth retires

my friend Cat Ashworth retired yesterday, after teaching film at RIT for 32 years. that RIT didn’t have the grace to thank her for her stellar work over three long decades is appallingly egregious. it speaks to the larger issue of how work performed by women is systematically diminished and erased. how women themselves are routinely invisibilized, ignored, or minimized.

i took a class with cat many years ago. it was a hands-on documentary workshop during the course of which i edited my first doc, ‘the muslims i know’ – the film that made me a filmmaker. how lucky to have landed in cat’s class at such a crucial juncture in my life.

filmmaking was a second career for me so i was much older than the other students. i came to the class with a decisive goal in mind – to edit a feature length film in just a few weeks. there was an urgency to my task which cat understood instinctively. she supported me every way she could, even asking her assistant to teach me how to use keyframes and create motion paths in final cut pro.

not having formally studied filmmaking, i came at it from a different angle. sometimes i wouldn’t know the technical jargon or my ideas would be too unconventional or politically heavy and uncool. cat always sided with me. she never made me feel like i didn’t belong. she wasn’t annoyed by my drive. that set the tone for the way the other students responded to me. although they could be ruthless in their critique, cat made them believe i was doing something worthwhile and meaningful.

initially, i was thinking of hiring someone to do the film’s voiceover, but cat urged me to do it myself – not to hide but rather to embrace the personal nature of the project. the muslims i had interviewed were my people. islamophobia touched them just as it impacted me and my family. it was ok to own that and speak from that vulnerable position. and she was right. one of the most common reactions to the doc is the feedback i get about the voiceover – its warmth and ability to pull audiences in. only because of cat.

at the end of the class, when i screened the rough cut for RIT’s film faculty, the responses i got from some of the most prominent male professors in positions of power were disappointing. one particularly important one told me i shouldn’t use western classical music in the film because it didn’t fit all this talk about islam and muslims. i guess he was expecting some sitar and tabla. talk about orientalism. once again, cat pushed back publicly and also in private, encouraging me to stay with my ideas and in fact commit to them even more. it’s like she could predict the effect the film would have.

i’ve made two other films after it, but 15 years later, ‘the muslims i know’ continues to generate abundant viewership. it’s been integrated into college curriculums and i hear from professors who tell me how they use it in their class.

how many stories like this there must be from cat’s students and colleagues who have benefited from her generosity, attention and brilliance for 32 years. i am not even listing the outstanding work she has produced as an astute filmmaker and artist or her behind-the-scenes efforts to diversify RIT faculty.

thank u cat. we love u. enjoy ur retirement and know that u helped shape many lives and careers.

Obaida

Last year, I worked with JVP to organize a Palestinian film festival. One of the films I suggested was the story of a 15-year old boy named Obaida. The festival didn’t go anywhere, but we develop a sense of connection to the people on the screen. We learn a small part of their story. We feel like we know them a little. I just found out from a post by the film’s director that Obaida was killed earlier today. An Israeli soldier shot a bullet through his heart. I have no words, just deep grief and immense rage. Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un. May u rest in peace, sweet child.

Matthew Cassel (May 17):
I write this through tears after learning that Obaida Jawabreh, who I met in his refugee camp two years ago when he was just 15, was killed earlier today by an Israeli soldier’s bullet to his heart. Obaida was so curious, I was supposed to be the one conducting the interview but he spent our few days together asking me more questions than I asked him. He wanted to become a chef, but surrounded in every direction by Israeli military, checkpoints and settlements, even chasing such a simple dream was always going to be tough. He died before his 18th birthday. My heart goes out to his family, especially to his dear father Akram, who would send me the sweetest messages on holidays long after our meeting. He loved his son and wanted nothing more than to watch him grow up away from the occupation. Together with Defense for Children International – Palestine I made this video on Obaida in 2019. May he now rest in the peace that he was denied throughout his life.

haseena moin (1941-2021)

pakistani playwright and screenwriter haseena moin has passed away. tv shows she wrote like ‘tanhayiaan’ and ‘dhoop kinaray’ will always be a part of my childhood (and that of an entire generation of pakistanis). although i didn’t like some of the detours in her writing and most of the comic relief, i appreciated the strong and complex female protagonists she created. that a woman who was born in 1941 was one of the most popular, enduring, and beloved scriptwriters and storytellers in pakistan at a time when there was only one tv channel and no internet, tells one how much power she commanded. many of her lines and characters figured prominently in popular culture and opened people’s eyes to women who were independent, funny, eccentric and in charge of their narratives. feels like the end of an era. may she rest in peace.

The Warp & Weft on Reclaiming the Narrative

Dear all, Reclaiming the Narrative has been kindly broadcasting some of the Warp & Weft stories as the last segment of their weekly show on WXIR (Fridays at 1pm and Saturdays at 7:30am) and on WAYO (Saturdays at 4pm and Sundays at 7pm).
All their shows are available on Soundcloud. Last Friday (March 19) they shared ‘El Lenguaje es mi Tierra, mi Identidad’ by Tania Day-Magallon, the Friday before (March 12), they aired ‘Celebrate With Me’ by Erica Bryant, and finally, on Friday, March 5, they shared ‘Black Futures Matter’ by Quajay Donnell. Thank you RTN for sending these powerful stories out in the world via multiple channels.

My art video ‘Le Mot Juste’ is here

My experimental/art video is here! Check out Le Mot Juste along with 20 other works of art! I created this piece out of footage shot by Rajesh Barnabas and a dance performance by Mariko Yamada and Cloria Sutton <3

Enter the Diasporic Rhizome to experience the works of 21 artists who are reexamining our histories, commenting on current social issues, and dreaming of new realities. The collective works in this virtual exhibition use innovation and imagination as change agents where the digital space becomes the apparatus for community building, challenging the world around us to transform and address our growing needs.

The 21 participating artists in Diasporic Rhizome were selected from an open call by the following jury: Faisal Anwar, Ambika Trasi, Brendan Fernandes. (Ambika Trasi curated the Salman Toor exhibition that I loved at the Whitney Museum)

Diasporic Rhizome is produced by South Asia Institute.

The Warp & Weft – Second Set of Stories

4 more stories today, including one in Spanish, and a 3-part artistic response by Andrea Vazquez-Aguirre Kaufmann! Stories by Tania Day-Magallon, Erica Bryant, Darien Lamen and Charlotte Clarke. Listen here and pls ‘refresh’ if it takes time to load.


El Lenguaje es mi Tierra, mi Identidad por Tania Day-Magallon
Language is my Land, my Identity by Tania Day-Magallon: Language is my land, my home, my mother; and these three elements are feminine in Spanish. When you strip me of my language, it takes away my form of expression. A part of me and my Divine Feminine is left bone-dry. My identity is not only changed – I migrate out of myself and end up farther away from home, which is already physically distant, on the other side of the wall.

Celebrate With Me by Erica Bryant
I have one photograph of my great grandfather, Roscoe Foster. He is sitting in a rocking chair, on the porch of his home in Columbia, Mississippi, with a black dog. Family says that when the Ku Klux Klan was riding near, he would sit on that porch with a shotgun.

Time Travelers by Charlotte Clarke
Time. It is stamped upon our birth certificate upon arrival and upon our death certificate at departure. It is also the container for everything in between.

A Cover Story by Darien Lamen
Sometimes I feel like a ghost, haunting the ruins of respectable society. My name is Darien Lamen, PhD. But Lamen isn’t my real name – it’s a cover story.

A Three-Part Response to the Archive by Andrea Vazquez-Aguirre Kaufmann: A dance and video response

The Warp & Weft is a multilingual archive of stories that seeks to capture the 2020 zeitgeist. The archive is curated by interdisciplinary artist and activist filmmaker Mara Ahmed. A set of new stories will be released each week via RoCo and Mara’s social media, during the course of ‘Last Year on Earth.’

The Warp & Weft – First Set of Stories

The wait is over! The Warp & Weft is coming to life! Here are the first 4 stories and a musical response. Pls listen here.


My Story by Lauren Jimerson
I have a story for you and, I am sorry to say, it is not a happy one. My son and I completed work for a BIPOC art show, at a local gallery. I submitted a self-portrait that depicts a human alien. It’s a visual representation of the alienation I experience being out in the world.

My Love Affair with Food by Debora McDell-Hernandez
My relationship with food is a story of a quest for culinary euphoria, but there are many chapters in this story such as family traditions, friendships, travel, love, grief, comfort, and survival.

Black Futures Matter by Quajay Donnell
Growing up, I don’t recall sitting down with my mother and stepfather talking about the birds and bees, but I do remember the other talk. The one about how to respond and act when dealing with the police. That talk is one of survival if you find yourself face-to-face with the law. I remember it vividly.

Moja djeca, gdje duša na?e mi smiraj – Alma Omerhodzic
My Children: Where My Soul Finds Peace by Alma Omerhodzic: It always starts this way. Suddenly, without warning, and right in the deepest core of my being. Sometimes it is a smell, sometimes a taste, and other times, I am not even sure why, but a word will hit me in the depths of my soul, depths that I didn’t know existed.

Lost Property by Sarah Gillespie: A musical response to the archive

The Warp & Weft is a multilingual archive of stories that seeks to capture the 2020 zeitgeist. The archive is curated by interdisciplinary artist and activist filmmaker Mara Ahmed (@mara__ahmed). A set of new stories will be released each week via RoCo and Mara’s social media, during the course of ‘Last Year on Earth.’

Borders Can Be Borderlands

My piece in Mason Street’s Winter Issue 2021 published today.

‘It used to be that borders were formed naturally, by oceans and mountains, carved out by the physical contours of the earth’s surface. There was something poetic about these landforms, extending from foothills and valleys, to plains and plateaus, all the way to seafloors. They were shaped by wind and water erosion, pushed up by the collision of tectonic plates, forged by volcanic eruptions, sandblasted and weathered over millions of years. They were substantive, grounded in history.

The borders that came out of the crumbling of empires, in the 20th century, were different. Cartographic inventions meant to divvy up world resources and power, divorced from indigenous logic or priorities. A few sheets of stolen paper.’

More here.