Muslim Women in Film/TV

May 12, 2021

Eid Mubarak!

Over the next two days, millions of people are celebrating Eid al-Fitr, the celebration marking the end of Ramadan—a monthlong observance of prayer, fasting, and reflection. Today we’re highlighting Muslim women in the screen industries, and invite you to join us in celebrating these exceptional filmmakers, executives, artists, and activists. Muslim communities at home and abroad also continue to endure violence and struggle. We stand in solidarity with those advocating for human rights, peace, and equality; and with all grieving the lives lost to escalating violence during the holy month of Ramadan.

A quarter of the world’s population identify as Muslim or are from Muslim-majority regions, so it bears repeating that Muslim women are not a monolith. The filmmakers named in this newsletter tell a diverse array of stories, reflecting a variety of lived experiences. Hear more people’s own words by listening to Misha Euceph‘s podcast, produced by the Higher Ground production company, “Tell Them, I Am,” featuring interviews with Muslims including filmmaker Fawzia Mirza, comedian Salma Hindy, actor Alia Shawkat, TV writer Sahar Jahani, and more.

IN CASE YOU MISSED THESE EVENTS…

WIF and the Hollywood Bureau of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) held a panel discussion on issues facing Black Muslim women in front of and behind the camera, featuring writer/director Nijla Mu’min, writer/director Muna Deria, and actor/writer Sameerah Luqmaan-Harris. The talk was moderated by producer/director Dr. Aminah Bakeer Abdul-Jabbaar.
WIF held a virtual conversation with three MENA (Middle Eastern and North African) directors to discuss their careers, festivals, how and when career intersects with identity, and current events. Panelists are Maryam Touzani (ADAM), Maryam Keshavarz (CIRCUMSTANCE), and ReFrame Rise fellow Haifaa al-Mansour (THE PERFECT CANDIDATE, WADJDA); moderated by Dr. Maytha Alhassen.

WATCHLIST

  • Congratulations to the women writers on The Black List’s inaugural Muslim List: Shireen Alihaji (BLUE VEIL), Zubaira Ahmed (BROOKLYN BENGALS), Jenna Mahmoud Bosco (LADY LIBERTY), Nadra Widatalla (NAILA), and Nijla Mu’Min (NOOR)!
  • Nijla Mu’min‘s 2018 film JINN is a coming-of-age tale about a Black teenage girl whose family converts to Islam. Read Mu’min’s article, “As a Black Muslim Woman, Filmmaking Is My Resistance,” on Vice.
  • Nominated for Best International Feature at this year’s Academy Awards, Jasmila Žbanić‘s QUO VADIS, AIDA? tells the story of the Mothers of Srebenica, who lost loved ones to the 1995 genocide of Bosniak Muslim men and boys.
  • Marjane Satrapi wrote and directed the animated adaptation of her own landmark autobiographical graphic novel, PERSEPOLIS, telling the story of her own coming-of-age set against the backdrop of the Iranian Revolution.
  • Two films about Muslim teenage girls on skateboards that couldn’t be more different: Minhal Baig‘s high school drama HALA and Ana-Lily Amirpour‘s chiaroscuro vampire thriller A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT.
  • Haifaa al-Mansour‘s ouevre alone has made history, with her feature directorial debut WADJDA both the first feature directed by a Saudi woman, and the first feature shot entirely in Saudi Arabia. Since then she’s helmed MARY SHELLEY (starring Elle Fanning), NAPPILY EVER AFTER (starring Sanaa Lathan), and THE PERFECT CANDIDATE, which competed for the Golden Lion at Venice (and will air in U.S. theaters beginning May 14).
  • FLORA & ULYSSES, a superhero film featuring a young girl and her squirrel friend, is an adorable kids movie from director Lena Khan, exclusively on Disney+. Something to tide over superhero fans until the premiere later this year of “Ms. Marvel,” showrun by Bisha K. Ali and starring Iman Vellani.
  • The short film AMERICAN EID, written and directed by Aqsa Altaf, will be premiering on May 26 on Disney+ as part of the studio’s new Launchpad program amplifying underrepresented voices. Disney’s Mahin Ibrahim, who oversees Launchpad, said, “As a first-generation Muslim Bangladeshi woman, I know how important it is for communities to see themselves on screen, and to empower emerging filmmakers.”
  • Behind the scenes, Disney Studios Content has also hired a new VP of Multicultural Audience Engagement, Marya Bangee, previously the Executive Director of Harness.

WIF MEMBER SPOTLIGHT

  • WIF Film Finishing Fund grantee I’LL MEET YOU THERE, directed by Iram Parven Bilal, is available to rent. The film, which started its fundraising from the LAX protests to the #MuslimBan, was released at SXSW 2020, days after the executive order was reversed.
  • Featured at WIF Member Shorts Night in 2018, Disha Patel-Webb’s THE BRIDGE and Hanadi Elyan’s NADIA’S VISA tell compelling stories featuring Muslim women lead characters.

UPCOMING

WGA members: RSVP to attend the Think Tank for Inclusion & Equity (TTIE)’s “WRITE INCLUSION: Muslims” virtual panel event on Wednesday, May 19 at 6:00 p.m. PT, presented by WGAW’s Writers Education and Middle Eastern Writers Committees, in partnership with TTIE and Storyline Partners. This is the the latest in the Guild’s multi-part series to unpack cultural narratives surrounding TTIE’s #WriteInclusion: Tips for Accurate Representation factsheet initiative. These talks delve into authentic and nuanced storytelling, examining culture creation, how we shape stories, and how to ensure accurate and authentic characters and narratives in film and TV. This panel will focus on the portrayals and representation of Muslims. Panelists to include television writers Y. Shireen Razack (“New Amsterdam”), Ubah Mohamed (“DC’s Legends of Tomorrow”), Julián Kiani (“Broke”), Fawzia Mirza (“The Red Line”), and Sue Obeidi (Director, MPAC, Hollywood Bureau); moderated by Dr. Maytha Alhassen (“Ramy”). WGA members only, click here to register.

Applications to the American Muslim Film Grant are open through June 21, 2021! The Islamic Scholarship Fund has offered the Film Grant since 2014 to create a stronger narrative of Muslim stories and supporting Muslim filmmakers. CLICK HERE to learn more and apply!

🚨 READ THIS: Think Tank for Inclusion & Equity (TTIE), a collaborative project of WIF, has built #WriteInclusion Factsheets to empower writers and creatives to better reflect the lived experiences of marginalized communities. CLICK HERE to read tips for accurate representation of Muslims. This tool can help bridge the gabs between where we are, and where we should be, with more representation behind the scenes and in writers rooms.