Category Archives: projects

A THIN WALL on MUBI

My film ‘A Thin Wall,’ co-produced by Surbhi Dewan, a documentary that highlights personal stories about the partition of India in 1947, will be streaming on MUBI India starting today! MUBI is a global film platform that provides a hand-curated selection of films on demand, in over 190 countries. Psyched:)
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MUBI #athinwall #documentary #neelumfilms #partitionofindia #pakistan #india #southasia #subcontinent #oralhistory #personalstories #womenempowerment #bordersseparatepeople

The Injured Body: Amanda Chestnut

Transcribing interviews for my new doc ‘The Injured Body’
Amanda Chestnut, an artist, curator and educator based in Rochester, NY, talks about her work:

‘The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain’ by Langston Hughes was so important for me to read. I’ve read a lot of his poetry. A lot of archival work I’ve done has been related to Hughes’s experience of being Black in America. His poetry has overlapped with my archival work in many ways. But this essay in particular was really important for me because he speaks to actively choosing to be Black and actively choosing to glorify that Blackness, instead of being a creator and having aspirations toward a normative white standard. He emphasizes that it’s ok to be Black and that Blackness is glorious, is the word that he uses. And that was really important for me to read as I was coming into being an artist. It was important for me to be able to actively choose to talk about race and to make work about race. Because when you’re a person of color your work is always about race, whether you want to admit it or not. Everything you make is influenced by race and everything you make will be read through that lens.
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microaggressions #racism #womenofcolor #film #documentary #theinjuredbody #neelumfilms #microaggressionsareracism #microaggressionsarereal

Neelum Films – Films by Mara Ahmed

Dear friends, after a huge amount of work by Mike Boas and myself, I would like to introduce the updated website for Neelum Films. It includes information about ‘The Injured Body: A Film about Racism in America’ and gorgeous photographs taken by Erica Jae of the powerful women we interviewed. I will continue to transcribe those conversations, share quotes, and keep you posted on the film’s editing and post production. Pls visit us here and support our projects. Check out our new website here.

The Injured Body: Greta Niu

Transcribing interviews for my new doc ‘The Injured Body’

Greta Aiyu Niu, came to Rochester as an academic, now Director of Grants at Planned Parenthood of Central and Western New York, lifelong teacher, reflects on micro-aggressions:

‘I just don’t want to lose sight of what makes up the micro-aggressions. So it is implicit biases around race or ethnicity or gender or gender expression or class or size or disability, those are the pieces that we’ve been fighting. And we’ve always been fighting against them. I don’t want people to think we’re done with that. Now all we have to deal with are these micro-aggressions. It’s a whole continuum of behaviors that are harmful, from a little poke to physical violence.’
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#microaggressions #racism #womenofcolor #film #documentary#theinjuredbody #neelumfilms #microaggressionsareracism #microaggressionsarereal

The Injured Body: Lu Highsmith

Transcribing interviews for my new doc ‘The Injured Body’

Lu LutonyaRachel Highsmith is a poet, writer, and community activist. She is the founder and director of Roc Bottom Slam Team.

On how she processed racist micro aggressions she experienced in college:

‘As an 18 year old, my initial reaction was anger. I was really ticked off that they would say these things or even think these things. This was the late 80s, so it’s not like it was back in the 50s or 60s. I was very upset. I don’t know if it caused me to try to prove myself. I was on a mission to excel academically, culturally, creatively. It probably took a good 20 years for me to change my mindset. By my mid-30s, I was like, I’m just who I am.’
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#microaggressions #racism #womenofcolor #film #documentary#microaggressionsareracism #theinjuredbody #neelumfilms

The Injured Body: Ayni Ali

As I transcribe interviews for my new documentary, The Injured Body, I will be posting short excerpts from the conversations we filmed (cinematography by Rajesh Barnabas). 

Here is Ayni Ali: 24 at the time of filming, a student at RIT, and a volunteer for Refugees Helping Refugees.

Her answer to where her drive (the fire that seems to animate her actions and words) comes from: 

‘I think from being raised by a woman (laughs). I was raised by my grandmother. I’ve had strong women around me all this time. 

[…] Because I was raised by a woman, I know what a woman can do.’
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#theinjuredbody #muslimwomen #woc #womenofcolor #somalia #refugee#film #documentary #neelumfilms #microaggressions #racism

two part interview with instruments of memory

Repost from Instruments of Memory

“Inspired by the words in ‘Snowmen’, a poem by Agha Shahid Ali, This Heirloom explores notions of identity by recreating Mara Ahmed’s family history using photographs of her ancestors and juxtaposing them against South Asian architectural details. The vivid and colorful montages contrast with black and white images of Ahmed’s parents, Nilofar Rashid and Saleem Murtza, her maternal grandfather, Rashid Ahmad Qureshi, her maternal great grandfather, Adbul Majeed Qureshi, and her paternal grandmother, Niaz Fatima. By placing her subjects on the wrong side of the India-Pakistan border, Ahmed defies the dividing lines that separated territories more than seventy years ago.”
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Learn more in @mara__ahmed Mara Ahmed’s two-part interview (see comments)
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#instrumentsofmemory#womeninthearts#conversationswithwomeninthearts#artist#filmmakers#activist#filmmaker#MaraAhmed#ThisHeirloom#ThePartition

Embroidered Dreams by Mara Ahmed

The Injured Body gets a grant

Friends, I am excited to share that The Injured Body: A Film about Racism in America is now fiscally sponsored by New York Women in Film & Television (see below) and that we recently got a grant from First Unitarian Church of Rochester for post-production. We are also updating our website (will share soon). There is still a lot of work to do, but we are moving forward. More here.

Borderless: A conversation with Mara Ahmed, Part 2

We did this interview in early May, before George Floyd’s murder and the uprising that followed. But I’m glad Claudia asked me about the pandemic and its impact on immigrants and communities of color. Here is the second part of my interview with Instruments of Memory:

It is uncertain how we are going to overcome the recent health and economic crisis that has hit immigrant communities and people of color the hardest.

When I asked Ahmed what would be a way to engage and support these communities at this time, she admits: “This is a big question. Many have said how the pandemic is a great equalizer. Sadly, it’s quite the opposite. The pandemic throws into sharp relief the gross inequities and cruelties of a maniacally greedy, profit-oriented, dehumanizing capitalist system. Income and wealth inequalities in the US are obscene. The global distribution of wealth is even more distorted and disturbing. It’s a suicidal system.

At this time of crisis, we need to provide resources to the most vulnerable: large public projects that provide employment and housing, healthcare, testing and personal protective equipment for all, and equal access to technology, which is essential for remote learning, online work, and social distancing. People’s lives depend on this.

We should also keep in mind that pre-corona life is NOT what we want to return to. This is the time to imagine and organize a just, kind, and decolonial world. We must be wary of disaster capitalism and remain committed to our vision, even in the midst of a disorienting crisis. It can’t be said often enough that we are all in this together.” More here.

INSTRUMENTS OF MEMORY IG TAKEOVER – 5

Repost from @instrumentsofmemory:

As I end my Instruments of Memory IG takeover, I would like to thank my team. Filmmaking is all about teamwork and I am lucky to have collaborated with some exceptionally gifted artists and human beings on ‘The Injured Body.’

I will continue to edit and transcribe interviews and I will be posting images and thoughts on my IG. Please follow me @mara__ahmed to stay in touch and learn more about the film. At this historic moment in our country (and around the world), let’s vow to eradicate racism in our families and communities, but also within ourselves. A better world is possible.

Thank you once again to Instruments of Memory and Claudia Pretelin for this wonderful opportunity.

Photographs of Rajesh Barnabas [Cinematography], Mariko Yamada [Dance Choreography], Erica Jae [Photography], Tom Davis [Musical Score], Imani Sewell [Soprano], Darien Lamen [Sound Design, Photo by Aaron Winters] and Jesus Duprey [Additional Camera]
(see more photos on IG)

Rajesh Barnabas

INSTRUMENTS OF MEMORY IG TAKEOVER – 4

Repost from @instrumentsofmemory:

From Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric:

‘Perhaps each sigh is drawn into existence to pull in, pull under, who knows; truth be told, you could no more control those sighs than that which brings the sighs about.
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The sigh is the pathway to breath; it allows breathing. That’s just self-preservation. No one fabricates that. You sit down, you sigh. You stand up, you sigh. The sighing is a worrying exhale of an ache. You wouldn’t call it an illness; still it is not the iteration of a free being.’

‘The Injured Body’ weaves together an alternative narrative strand told through dance and movement, mostly choreographed by Mariko Yamada. Since prejudice is largely a matter of reading bodies in particular ways and racism is received by and carried in the body, dance is the perfect medium to underline and explore the personal stories shared in the film.

Film stills with Mariko Yamada, Joyce Edwards, Nanako Horikawa, Andrea Vazquez-Aguirre Kaufmann, Cloria Iampretty, Sraddha Prativadi, Sejal Shah, María José Rodríguez-Torrado, Alaina Olivieri, Rosalie M. Jones, and Andrew David
Photography by Mara Ahmed @mara__ahmed

Mariko Yamada and Joyce Edwards. Photo by Mara Ahmed

INSTRUMENTS OF MEMORY IG TAKEOVER – 3

Repost from @instrumentsofmemory:

Claudia Rankine in ‘Citizen: An American Lyric’:
‘Yes, and the body has memory. The physical carriage hauls more than its weight. The body is a threshold across which each objectionable call passes into consciousness—all the unintimidated, unblinking, and unflappable resilience does not erase the moments lived through…’

The women interviewed for ‘The Injured Body’ share stories of micro-aggressions and parse their cumulative effect on the mind and body, but they also describe their visions for a world without racism or violence. This is a crucial part of the film, as imagining a better world is an important step towards achieving it.

In order to include a diversity of voices, we interviewed women one-on-one but also in groups, where the conversation was more fluid and informal. Here are some of our panelists.

Luticha A Doucette, Marcella Davis, Khadija Mehter, Muna Lisa, Yogi Indrani, Pamela Kim, Tianna Mañón, Mercedes Phelan, and Erica Bryant
All photography by Erica Jae (see all photos on IG)

Luticha Doucette. Photo by Erica Jae

INSTRUMENTS OF MEMORY IG TAKEOVER – 2

Repost from @instrumentsofmemory:

My new documentary, The Injured Body, examines racism though the lens of micro-aggressions: slights, slips of the tongue, or intentional offenses that accumulate over a lifetime and impede a person’s ability to function and thrive in the world.

I chose to approach racism by focusing on micro-aggressions because of two reasons. Firstly, as Claudia Rankine explains, we seem to understand structural racism somewhat, but are baffled by racism coming from friends. It is disorienting because it is unmarked. ‘The Injured Body’ hopes to home in on the language needed to ‘mark the unmarked.’ Secondly, personal stories lend themselves to filmmaking because they can help create intimacy and trust, and lay the groundwork for a paradigm shift.

The film spotlights the voices of women of color not only because their stories are misrepresented and frequently ignored by mainstream media, but also because they operate at the intersection of multiple forms of oppression and can articulate the complexity of those experiences. Their testimony and analysis can help broaden traditional understandings of feminism as well as anti-racism work.

Film stills/photographs of Ayni Ali, Amanda Chestnut , Sady Fischer, Lu LutonyaRachel Highsmith, Lauren Jemison, Elizabeth Nicolas, Greta Aiyu Niu, and Tonya Noel

Ayni Ali’s photograph by Arleen Thaler, all other photography by Erica Jae (pls see on IG)

Ayni Ali. Photo by Arleen Thaler

instruments of memory IG takeover – 1

Repost from @instrumentsofmemory:

Hey you all. My name is Mara Ahmed. I am an activist filmmaker and multimedia artist based in Long Island, New York. I’ve lived and gone to school on three different continents. I am many places and cultures but I identify with and am interested in those who end up on the ‘wrong’ side of borders. And history.

I’m working on my fourth film (getting ready to edit) and will be posting mostly about that project – ideas that coalesced into the film and stills from our shoots. Thanks to @instrumentsofmemory and @claudia_pretelin for letting me take over this IG.

My new documentary is called ‘The Injured Body: A Film about Racism in America.’ It’s inspired by Claudia Rankine’s book ‘Citizen: An American Lyric.’ ‘Rankine says that American life is made of moments when race gets us “by the throat.” Only some are nationally noted tragedies.’ Most others are minimized as ‘microaggressions,’ yet they damage deeply.

My favorite lines from the book:

You are not sick, you are injured—
you ache for the rest of life.
How to care for the injured body,
the kind of body that can’t hold
the content it is living?
And where is the safest place when that place
must be someplace other than in the body?

maraahmed #instumentsofmemory #instrumentsofmemorytakeover
activism #art #film #documentary #racism #america #claudiarankine #citizen #microaggressions #theinjuredbody #neelumfilms

Mara Ahmed. Photo by Aitezaz Ahmed

Borderless: A conversation with mara ahmed

The first part of my interview with the brilliant Claudia Pretelin for Instruments of Memory is here. Repost from @instrumentsofmemory

“Mara Ahmed is a Pakistani-American activist, artist, and independent filmmaker. She was born in Lahore, Pakistan, about seventeen miles from the Indian border. Her deeply formative migration pathway has informed her practice and has helped her develop a body of work that addresses notions of history, heritage, and tradition. Deeply connected with her roots and in constant dialogue with her contemporaneity and the political moment, Ahmed’s work creates art that subverts boundaries and connects different cultures with the universality of her topics.”

You can read interview here.