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Is Hollywood Ready for Muslim Women Leads? (Guest Blog)

Muslim rom-com Americanish

Photo credit score: Iman Zawahry

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Name a Hollywood movie that has a Muslim lady lead.

Can’t consider one? What a few Muslim women-led comedy directed by a Muslim lady? They are unicorn-rare.

Growing up within the panhandle of Florida, there was not a lot to do. Watching movie and tv was the way in which to manage. Even although the characters have been lovable, they at all times appeared as predictable and mundane because the geography round me. I by no means thought it will change. Or that I may change it.

I’m one of many first hijabi feminine filmmakers in America. Graduating from Florida State University Film School within the late 2000s allowed me alternatives to create tales I wished to see and will relate to. I longed for the nostalgic contact of a feel-good film however with hijabi Muslim girls featured as leads. I created 4 shorts that did tremendously nicely as a result of individuals yearned to see a Muslim feminine story. They have been screened in 100 venues worldwide, have been an NBC Short Cuts finalist, Princess Grace Award winner, Emmy award winner, and extra.

As a younger filmmaker recent out of movie college, I believed this meant the trade was prepared. But that wasn’t the case.

The trade remained hesitant to characteristic Muslim girls of their tales till not too long ago. In 2016, when the Trump administration initiated the Muslim ban, solely then did we see Muslim girls on tv and movie that got here nearer to genuine portrayals. Muslim girls have been featured on exhibits like Freeform’s “The Bold Type” and ABC’s “Quantico” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” however we noticed extra lead roles for Muslim males, together with Hasan Minhaj’s “Patriot Act,” Hulu’s “Ramy,” and, most not too long ago, NBC’s “Transplant.”

These are big strides for Muslim illustration. But I nonetheless surprise: Where are the Muslim girls lead characters? Where are the characters who characterize the array of Muslim girls in America and who actually characterize us?

In UCLA’s latest “Hollywood Diversity Report,” 84% of the administrators are white males, whereas there have been zero Muslim girls within the director’s chair in Hollywood in 2019. Furthermore, the actors portraying Muslim girls on display are usually not truly performed by Muslim girls. How are we as a group championing Muslim girls filmmakers and actors? How are we placing them on the forefront?

The significance of being the brokers of our story can’t be understated. Along with my fellow American-Muslim feminine filmmakers, like Lena Khan and Nijla Mu’min, now we have been pushing onerous for our communities’ illustration for a number of years with our movies. I lastly determined to make the primary feminine rom-com made by Muslim girls about Muslim girls, “Americanish” (pictured above).

The movie is a comedic but genuine break from the standard romantic comedy and highlights totally different layers of feminism because it intersects with faith, tradition, immigration and the present sociopolitical local weather. We should champion and commandeer these efforts to make American Muslim girls uniformly represented within the portrayal of the American narrative. I made a movie in an accessible style that I really feel has a globally relatable story with the potential to succeed in audiences from intersectional experiences. It’s significantly significant to our solid and crew, as many people are girls, girls of colour, and/or Muslim girls. Comedy is commonly ignored as a device to assist educate the general public and rework our opinion, particularly with regards to politics and faith.

Not many perceive what it means to be Muslim in America and we are sometimes portrayed as a monolith within the media. I hope that when audiences watch genuine portrayals of American Muslim girls they’ll start to know that there’s extra unifying us than separating us.

Iman Zawahry is a filmmaker, co-creator and director of the Islamic Scholarship Fund Film Grant and college on the University of Florida

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