Dear friends and fam, it is with immense pleasure and hope that I would like to share the official trailer for The Injured Body: A Film about Racism in America. I have been working on this documentary (inspired by Claudia Rankine’s poetry) for three years now. I have interviewed remarkable women and collaborated with incredible dancers. My closest partners in this project have been Rajesh Barnabas (cinematography, sound, post production), Mariko Yamada (dance choreography, costume design, translation between dance and film), Erica Jae (photography) and Tom Davis (music) – the most talented and kindest people on the planet. It has been an extraordinary, eye-opening, emotional experience. I hope that some of the beauty and brilliance we experienced while filming will come through in this short preview. I’ll finish editing by the end of this year and will be working with Don Casper on post-production early next year. Pls ‘like’ and comment on YouTube if you can. And pls share widely.
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).
To mark @southasianheritagemonth_uk & celebrate both India & Pakistan Independence Day, #reelN & @modernfilmsent are screening documentary film A THIN WALL. Screening to take place from Friday 13th August to Friday 20th August, Geo blocked to the UK only. There will also be an online Q&A that can be accessed with the ticket price. Purchase tickets via the Modern Films website: modernfilms.com/athinwall.
Event organised by ReelN Ltd @aman_kdhillon and supported by UKAFF.
A THIN WALL (2015) Duration: 65 mins Director: @mara__ahmed Co-Producer: @surbhid1
Synopsis: A THIN WALL is a documentary about memory, history and the possibility of reconciliation. It focuses on the Partition of India in 1947, but derives lessons that remain urgently relevant today. Shot on both sides of the border, in India and Pakistan, A THIN WALL is a personal take on Partition rooted in stories passed down from one generation to another. It is written and directed by Mara Ahmed and co-produced by Surbhi Dewan. Both filmmakers are descendants of families torn apart by Partition. The film is also a work of art infused with original animation, music and literary writing.
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.
Karen Faris’s beautiful art object ‘The Warp & Weft Of It All,’ which she created as a response to the Warp & Weft audio archive, is now on view at RIT’s Bevier Gallery. It is truly a gorgeous piece that you can see in person. Congrats dear Karen!
“RIT’s Bevier Gallery is hosting an exhibition celebrating Arena Art Group’s 70th anniversary.
Arena Art Group is a local art collective that fosters interest in exploratory art forms through the exhibition of work and maintaining an active, viable and professional arts presence in the Rochester community.
The show, which features RIT alumni and former faculty among other artists, is on view July 7-Aug. 7. An opening reception is scheduled for 6-8 p.m. Friday, July 9. Bevier Gallery, located on the second floor of Booth Hall on the RIT campus, is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and noon-4 p.m. on Saturday.”
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.
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.
on friday, i caught up with the lovely Fatima Naaz Mustafa in nyc at lucy’s cantina royale (good guac and wraps but v noisy). it was brilliant to hear an accomplished therapist talk about generational trauma, racism and mental health, and the importance of breathing, and feel validated for focusing on these convos in my new film, ‘the injured body.’ thank u naaz for making time in ur whirlwind schedule and connecting. hope the rest of ur trip will be relaxing and peaceful <3
had the honor of interviewing filmmaker mats grorud (who directed ‘the tower’) and dr. dina matar (chair of the centre for palestine studies at SOAS) for witness palestine film festival today. a brilliant conversation that we hope to share soon. went for a walk to port jefferson afterwards and got a chocolate ganache raspberry cake from la bonne boulangerie. i’m sold on long island folx. all i need now is for all my friends to move here.
happy to share that the two digital collage prints i sent to Rochester Contemporary Art Center’s famous transnational 6×6 exhibition have been purchased! called ‘stepping into spring’ part I and II, they were created earlier this year with dreams of warmer weather, lush color, nature, and long walks on long island. the exhibition/sale is still on! visit www.roco6x6.org to buy wonderful, affordable art!
i’d like to share a new story from the warp & weft today – a story that means a lot to me personally.
on feb 1st this year, my favorite teacher left this world unexpectedly. i was heartbroken. the force of my reaction surprised me. there is so much more to us than meets the eye, even our own internal eye.
there are 30 trillion cells in the human body. there are multiplicities, temporalities, and mysteries buried inside of us. there is memory in each cell. we might not remember what someone means to us, until the body reminds us, by reviving thoughts and emotions – the messy, gelatinous stuff we’re made of.
here is a beautiful tribute to our monsieur maurer written by his best friend of 65 years, the wonderful belgian writer Paul Couturiau. pls listen to/read this story of deep friendship.
I presented a paper called ‘We Do Language’ today, words from Toni Morrison’s Nobel lecture. So happy I was able to include the following voices, beauty, wisdom and poetry. I’ve gotta admit, I’m loving Zoom:)
-Anam Cara by John O’Donohue -Demain dès l’aube by Victor Hugo -Le dormeur du val by Arthur Rimbaud -Dasht e Tanhai (In the desert of my solitude) by Faiz Ahmed Faiz -Light at the Edge of the World by Wade Davis -Linguistic Imperialism: Colonial Violence through Language by Ananya Ravishankar -Dreaming in Gujarati by Shailja Patel -A discourse on colonialism by Aime Cesaire -Things fall apart by Chinua Achebe -Memory for Forgetfulness by Mahmoud Darwish -Toni Morrison’s Nobel lecture
-Le Mot Juste by Mara Ahmed -Dasht e Tanhai as sung by Iqbal Bano -Ngugi wa Thiong’o Interview: Memories of Who We Are
-A language family tree in pictures, The Guardian -The emperor Akbar receiving Sultan Adam Gakkar, part of the Akbar-nama, illustrated late in Emperor Akbar’s reign -Photograph from Mara’s family archive, Brussels -Women in a Garden on a Moonlit Night, 1744 India, artist unknown, ink and watercolor on paper -Still from Peau d’âne, a French musical film directed by Jacques Demy, with Catherine Deneuve and Jean Marais -Abdur Rahman Chughtai (Pakistan, 1897-1975) Spinning Wheel, Etching on paper -Abdur Rahman Chughtai (Pakistan, 1897-1975) Maiden contemplating moths at a flame, Watercolor on card -Amrita Sher-Gil (Hungary/India, 1913-1941) Bride’s Toilet, 1937 -Jamdani sari, 20th century, the only surviving variety of muslin that uses coarser threads with traditional motifs, as woven by master-weaver Haji Kafiluddin of Rupganj, Dhaka, photo: Shahidul Alam, Drik Photographs -Watercolor with two women from Thar (Sindh, Pakistan) by Ali Abbas -A scene from “SpiNN,’’ Shahzia Sikander’s 2003 digital animation -Bachi Devi (India, contemporary artist) Peacock on tree, Folk art from the Indian village of Madhubani -Toni Morrison. Photo illustration by Lisa Larson-Walker. Photo by Bettman/Corbis.
I was planning to put a trailer together for my new film ‘The Injured Body,’ but at close to 7 min, it’s more like a preview. This is the first time that people will get a glimpse of all the interviews we did (w 17 remarkable women) and the gorgeous dance performances we shot. I will be showing this never-before-seen, brand new material at a free online conference day after tomorrow, June 3, at 8pm.
I am honored to be a part of ‘Activate, Reimagine, Transform,’ a virtual gathering hosted by the UR Institute for the Performing Arts, in partnership with the UR Office of Equity and Inclusion, the Paul J. Burgett Intercultural Center, 540WMain, Inc., Create A Space Now, and Rochester Fringe Festival.
I will be talking about The Injured Body and so much more. It will be multimedia, as usual, with clips from the documentary and the premiere of a film preview.
Will present on opening night, June 3rd, at 8pm. The conference runs June 3-6 and is completely free. Pls register.
Friends, I am pleased to return to the Witness Palestine Film Festival, on Sunday June 13 at 3pm, to interview filmmaker Mats Grorud and the Chair of the Centre for Palestine Studies at SOAS, Dr. Dina Matar. We will be talking about ‘The Tower.’
This is an important time to learn about Palestine and become a part of the global solidarity movement. You can watch the film on Amazon.
I was one of the activists who helped create the WPFF in 2011. Was on the organizing team for 7 years, so it’s an honor to be back. Hope to see you then!
THE TOWER: This beautifully animated film tells the story of Wardi, a young Palestinian girl who lives with her family in the Lebanese refugee camp where she was born. Her beloved great-grandfather, “Sidi,” was one of the first people to settle in the camp after being exiled from his home and homeland, Palestine, in 1948. When Sidi gives Wardi the key to his old house back in the Galilee, she fears he may have lost hope of someday returning home. As she searches for Sidi’s lost hope around the camp, she collects her family’s testimonies, from one generation to the next. An uplifting film that captures the story of Palestine through four generations.