screening of “awaiting for men” on june 18th

RCTV organizes a free film festival every year. this year, it includes an interesting film about muslim women in mauritania – a very different take on muslim countries and cultures. the film is called “awaiting for men” and it will be screened thursday, june 18 at 7.30pm, at the RCTV studios, 21 gorham street, rochester (off of st paul st). i will be leading a discussion after the screening. more information.

“the muslims i know” on PBS (rochester)

my film on PBS, may 12th, 8 pm! u can also buy the dvd at: www.TheMuslimsIKnow.com

Take a journey into the much talked about but little known American community in Mara Ahmed’s personal documentary that focuses on the Pakistani American community in Rochester.

The Muslims I Know airs Tuesday, May 12 at 8 p.m. on WXXI-TV/HD 21 (cable 11) and WXXI-HD (DT 21.1/cable 1011).
Immediately following the broadcast, Ahmed will participate in an online chat about the production at wxxi.org/chat

The Muslims I Know aims to become a dialogue between Americans who might not otherwise interact by exploring the similarities between Islam and other Abrahamic Faiths. The documentary also celebrates the cultural richness and diversity brought into the American mix by Muslim communities. By asking Pakistani Americans questions non-Muslim Americans have framed through vox pop interviews, Ahmed aims to break the stereotypes that have become well-entrenched since 9/11.

Filmmaker Ahmed, who also narrates the documentary, has a Master’s degree in Economics from the University of Hartford, Connecticut, and another Master’s in Business Administration from the Institute of Business Administration in Pakistan. In spite of her training in finance and economics, Mara was always interested in writing, art, and film.

Ahmed’s film training began in 2006 at the Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester, NY. She started shooting her first film, The Muslims I Know, in 2006. With the assistance Professor Cat Ashworth of the Rochester Institute of Technology, Mara went from 30-40 hours of uncut video to an hour long film during an 11-week period.

Ahmed’s production company is Neelum Films. She is a member of Rochester Women in Film and Television and of Rochester Film Lab since 2007. The Muslims I Know premiered at the Dryden Theatre in June 2008, and will broadcast on WXXI-TV as part of the Rochester High Falls International Film Festival.

The Muslims I Know

“the muslims i know” on PBS, may 12th, 8:00 pm

“the muslims i know” will kick off the rochester high falls intl film festival by being broadcast on PBS (rochester) on may 12th, 2009 at 8pm! there will be a live chat with me, the director, after the broadcast.

check out wxxi’s program guide.

check out the rochester high falls intl film festival – lynn redgrave, cch pounder, and lesley stahl to attend the festival, may 13-18.

lynn redgrave

my artwork exhibited at kinetic gallery

my artwork, including graphic art, collages, photography and other media (more than 35 works) is being exhibited for the first time at the kinetic gallery, macvittie student union building, SUNY geneseo (october 21st to november 1st – hours: M-F 12-4 pm, S-S 12-2 pm).

the exhibit explores many aspects of my work – from photographs of lahore and letchworth park, to pieces inspired by milan kundera and salman rushdie’s writing, from the incorporation of pakistani fabric in collage work to graphic art inspired by robert rauschenberg – there is something for everyone.

clips from my documentary “the muslims i know” are projected in one part of the exhibit while an eclectic mix of music from the film (including qawali, american and french folk and bhangra) is played in the gallery. it’s a multi-sensory experience.

i gave a talk about my work and what inspires it on saturday oct 25th at 3:00pm. attendance was excellent.

article in the democrat and chronicle

Pittsford woman makes film about Muslims
NANCY O’DONNELL • OCTOBER 4, 2008

Claim to fame: Pakistani-born Mara Ahmed wrote, directed, edited and financed a 54-minute documentary, The Muslims I Know.

Other iterations: Pittsford artist, homemaker, former economics analyst, wife to physician Aitezaz from an arranged marriage, mother of Gibran (age 13) and daughter Nermeen (8).

How Sept. 11 coverage inspired the movie: We were watching TV, and I turned to Aitezaz and asked, “Where are Muslims like us?”…There’s huge diversity in the Muslim community. I wanted to make a film as dialogue, showcasing the lives of Pakistani-American immigrants, having them answer questions non-Muslim Americans have asked.

Immediate success: Three hundred people attended the Dryden Theatre premiere.

On Islam: I tell my kids that Islam is a religion of peace, that moderation in all things is what Islam teaches — the opposite of extremism, in fact. I also tell them that charity is a basic tenet of Islam. Without it, we cannot be good Muslims or good human beings. Honesty, justice, equality all are emphasized by Islam.

On Sept. 11: It was so scary, so surreal. Aitezaz was working in a hospital in Brooklyn Heights. We were living right across the George Washington Bridge in New Jersey, and he couldn’t get back when the bridges and tunnels were sealed. He finally rented a car and drove up through upstate New York and then back down. He got home at 3 a.m.

On Sept. 11 hitting home: My son was called a terrorist when he was in the seventh grade. He was peeling off the plastic from a bottle of Snapple and stuffing it inside. [A classmate] asked him, ‘Are you making a bomb? Stop making a bomb. You should go to Saudi Arabia!’

On being a teenager in Pakistan: I was very critical of the Pakistani government. I saw how [military leaders] used Islam to control the people.

First career: Marketing pharmaceuticals for ICI, Imperial Chemical Industries, originally the British East India Co.

On what led to her career change: Art classes at Nazareth. A teacher encouraged me to enter my collages in a student exhibit, and I won first prize. It was a total reaffirmation that [art] was what I was meant to do.

On making choices: I am known to make extremely bold decisions — doing an MBA instead of going to medical school (both my sisters are doctors), deciding to move to Karachi and live on my own, marrying someone I had only known for a few hours, moving to the U.S. after marriage, quitting a great job with lots of potential in finance to go back to school and study art, deciding to make a movie.

Next project: I would like to preserve the personal stories of people who migrated across the border — in both directions — during the partitioning of India in 1947. I want the film to emphasize how Muslims and Hindus were once neighbors, friends and colleagues and lived in peace for many centuries before they became divided.

On what we all can do: Be aware of racial/religious profiling. It can start by stopping people with a certain name at airports, but as we all know from history, profiling is a slippery slope. Everyone’s rights should be equally protected under the law. Go beyond the propaganda and get to know Muslims first-hand.

HerRochester’s women to watch

Mara Ahmed

Occupation: Filmmaker (producer, director, writer), artist and senior financial analyst (in my past life).

Community activities: Member of Rochester Against War, Women in Film and Television Rochester and interested in interfaith dialogue and social activism.

My favorite thing to do in Rochester: Java’s on Gibbs Street, Starry Nites, Geva Theatre, Little Theatre, California Rollin, Park Avenue, Highfalls Film Festival and the Jazz Festival.

Biggest challenge I’ve overcome and how I did it: To make a film I thought needed to be made and then proceed to make it from scratch after just two weeklong workshops in filmmaking.

One thing I’ve always wanted to do but never have: Write and stage a multimedia play including performance art, music, video and dialogue.

Something people don’t know about me: When I’m really mentally exhausted, I can actually watch TV.

The one thing I can’t live without: The Internet.

The song that best describes my life: “It’s a Beautiful Day,” by U2.

Favorite guilty meal: Pad thai and really good tiramisu.

Favorite artist or musician: Robert Rauschenberg and Amy Winehouse

Actress I’d like to portray me in a movie about my life: Cate Blanchett (although we don’t look anything like each other, I like her passion and intensity).

photograph by matt wittmeyer

the big day: world premiere of “the muslims i know”

my first feature length documentary “the muslims i know” opened on june 8, 2008 at the dyrden theatre in rochester. about 300 people showed up. the response to the film was terrific and it was followed by a robust, hour long discussion.

june foster, the executive director, rochester/finger lakes film & video office, introduced me and the film. i spoke briefly about why i made the film and thanked many of the people present that afternoon who had helped with this project. here is my speech:

Good afternoon everyone and welcome to the world premiere of “The Muslims I Know”.

Today is a big day for me. It is the culmination of two years of hard work and the realization of a dream. Since 2001 there has been a concerted effort by the media to paint Islam and Muslims with one broad brushstroke – that of the radical, anti-modern, warmongering jihadist, a growing threat to our so-called way of life. The endorsement of this propaganda by the government has produced a culture of fear. The results have been devastating. This language of “us” vs. “them” has created distance and misunderstanding rather than what is needed, which is dialogue. This is the goal of the film you are about to see. It re-iterates something we all know instinctively – that rapprochement is always possible.

I wanted “The Muslims I Know” to open in Rochester because so many people here today have been instrumental in the making of this film starting of course with all the compelling, charismatic people who appear in the documentary and whom you will meet shortly.

But I would also like to thank:

Thom Marini for being an excellent cinematographer and an even more excellent human being,

June Foster for being my mentor and a source of unwavering support from the get go,

Nora Brown, Barry Goldfarb and all the volunteers today for their invaluable help with this event,

Cat Ashworth, Chuck Munier and Dave Sluberski for their amazing talent and their advice,

Teagan Ward for her beautiful songs,

Sarita Arden, Ruth and Russel Peck and Judy Bello for becoming brilliant ambassadors for this project,

My brother who drove from NJ to be here today and who also did the film’s musical score,

My beautiful family, and finally

All the wonderful friends who gave me feedback and support, posted flyers, sent out emails, spread the word about this film, and are present here today –

Thank you all.

I hope you enjoy the film and I look forward to your questions after the screening. We will invite some of the people featured in the film to join the discussion as well.

Thank you.