War Hurts Everyone Rally

Michael Boucher:

Grateful for all of the organizers and speakers who helped to put together the “War Hurts Everyone” rally tonight in front of the Federal Building. So many powerful stories of the intersections of the situation in Ukraine with so many other situations of injustice, displacement, occupation, oppression, human rights violations and war – all sharing threads of the abuse of power, racial capitalism and forms of imperialism.

Places like Ukraine, Syria, Yemen, Myanmar, Palestine, Somalia, the strees of the United States (and so many other places) all require our activism and outcry. In so many places, it is our government, our multinationals, our weapons manufacturers, our fossil fuel industry and our military suppliers who have vested interests in these conflicts and displacements.

I know that Mara and Pamela were named organizers of today (thank you!) and I know that many, many others helped to put it together and took risks in speaking their truths so that we might witness the intersections and rise up collectively. War hurts everyone, yes, but it does not hurt everyone in the same way or to the same extent.

War Hurts Everyone

This is happening today with a list of brilliant speakers headed by Olena Prokopovych. At 5:00 PM, Federal Building in Rochester. Pls join us!

From our Press Release:

This rally will bring together frontline organizers, activists, and community members to highlight Rochester’s solidarity with Ukraine. Horrified by the atrocities perpetuated against the people of Ukraine and the discrimination and violence inflicted on African, Asian, and Caribbean students and citizens attempting to flee the war, activists will recognize that the struggle against war, militarism, and racism, transcends national boundaries be it in Ukraine, the United States, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, or Palestine.

Their inspiration will be drawn from movements advocating for a more just and equitable world, including the thousands of anti-war activists in Russia and Ukraine calling for an end to state-sponsored violence, the movements advocating for Black Liberation here in the US and around the world, and the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israel’s occupation and colonization of Palestine.

As the voices of those who have been directly affected by war, militarism, and racism must continue to be centered, a diverse group of speakers will share their experiences about how both war and resistance to invasion and occupation are presented through a racist lens. Western media and politicians have described Ukrainian refugees as intelligent, car-owning Europeans, distinguishing them from “migrants” from the Global South who are seen as a threat to European safety. This contrast in terminology plays out in real life when people of color are allowed to drown rather than reach fortress Europe.

Activists will locate the war on Ukraine within the broader context of imperial interventions, military adventurism, and the lucrative business of war. They will seek to draw attention to the defense industry raking in obscene profits by manufacturing weapons. In short, this rally aims to deepen the scope of discussions about what’s happening in Ukraine. Rather than a disconnected narrative that fails to make connections between global power structures and their violence on some of the most vulnerable people in the world, this rally will endeavor to model a cohesive and inclusive position that’s both explicitly anti-war and anti-racism.

For questions, pls contact Pamela Kim, Elora Kang, or myself.

a juror for the south asian film festival of montreal

this fall, i was honored to be one of the jurors for the south asian film festival of montreal, and i got to see some powerful documentaries. one of them is called ‘the ice cream sellers’ by bangladeshi filmmaker sohel rahman. it follows two children in a rohingya refugee camp in bangladesh, and tells the stories of many of its uprooted residents. the opening shots create this sharp contrast between the stunning beauty of the fields and hills in bangladesh and the destitution of people who have witnessed hideous violence. the film’s cinematography is beautiful. its quiet, long shots allow us to take in the immensity of the situation. it’s not manipulative, with no music or fancy editing. rather it’s a sobering ethnographic portrait of royingya refugees. the film is raw, truthful, moving.

the little boy, ayas, at the center of the film (the ice cream seller), seems much older than his years. there is a sadness and anger in him. he and asia, his sister, are deeply traumatized by what they have experienced and by the absence of their father. genocide does not just affect those who are exterminated, it produces ongoing generational trauma.

the festival ends on november 28th so there are still a few days left to watch a large number of new films, many of them for free. google south asian film festival of montreal.

You can watch my films online

Friends, I am delighted to share that in addition to ‘The Muslims I Know’ and ‘Pakistan One on One,’ you can also watch my third film online.

‘A Thin Wall’ (2015) is shot on both sides of the border, in India and Pakistan. Produced by myself and my friend, filmmaker Surbhi Dewan, it tells personal stories of the 1947 Partition. Surbhi and I interviewed our families and friends in order to capture their stories of loss and rupture, and their longing for home in what became another country.

Writer Namrata Joshi says about A Thin Wall: ‘Without intending to do so, the film makes one go beyond ruminating on the “us” and “them” narrative of 1947, when one country was torn apart to create two independent nations, forcing us to look at the fissures that continue to form and deepen more than 70 years later. The talk of “organised violence” and “systematic ethnic cleansing” back then reverberates in the present. It makes you wonder about the ghosts of the past mutating into newer entities of hatred, still using people as pawns. The film may not be about it, yet it makes the viewer confront this pervasive reality indirectly.’

The film is a collage of poetry, prose and images about the Partition by artists and writers such as John Siddique, Uzma Aslam Khan, Ajay Bhardwaj, and Asim Rafiqui.

With gorgeous animation by Gayane Bagdasarian and music by acclaimed singer songwriters Zeshan Bagewadi, Hassan Zaman and Nivedhan Singh.

Pls watch and support activist filmmaking! If you live in the US, Canada or UK, watch A Thin Wall on Amazon. Everywhere else, watch on Vimeo.

navigating the pandemic

so my story about moving from rochester to long island during the pandemic was published in a book! u can read it if u scroll down – link in comments. it’s called: musings on moving (in corona times)

book #navigatingthepandemic #collectionofstories #movingduringthepandemic #rochester #longisland #coronatimes #covid19 #pandemic #mystory #published #maraahmed

Trailer for The Injured Body

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.

Coming in 2022, this…… is…… The Injured Body.

More info at NeelumFilms.com.

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).

A Thin Wall screening in the UK

This is exciting UK friends!

Repost from @ukasianfilmfestival:

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

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.

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.

The Warp & Weft Of It All

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.”

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.

meeting with naaz

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