Hijabi Filmmaker in USA

Just when I thought hijabis were already taking the stage by storm from Vogue and Covergirl to the House of Representatives, here comes the hijabi filmmaker, Iman Zawahry with her film, “Americanish.” Iman’s debut film, which releases this month explores the diversity of American communities while exploring what these communities have in common especially when it comes to love and relationships. Let’s talk to her:

R.Tell us about what inspired you to become a filmmaker. How has your upbringing and background influenced you and your choice of profession-filmmaker?

I. Like most storytellers, I wanted to share my multi-hyphenated experience. Muslim-Brown-American-Southern-Egyptian-Woman. I realize my experience is unique. We were always brought up with the idea that we were “the other.” I took it upon myself at the age of 12 to speak up for Muslims and tell my story. I would share my experience with the small southern community around me and educate others. I was an American Muslim activist in college and was president of my Muslim Students’ Association during 9/11. It was there, where I realized that film was the best avenue to share stories and educate others.  I had a natural affinity for storytelling and film and took a shot by applying to film school.  

R.Tell us about “Americanish.” 

Photo credit @theosamuels

I. “Americanish” is a story about three Muslim women living in Jackson Heights, Queens as they tackle ambition, love and identity while balancing cultural and societal expectations. This film is loosely based of Aizzah Fatima’s play about six Pakistani Muslim women. Aizzah and I met after her play in 2012 and have been working on this film ever since. This is the first American Muslim rom com made by diverse American Muslim women about Muslim women which is crazy because we are in 2021! We wanted to show that Muslim women are not a monolith and agents of their own lives. The film is having its world premiere at CAAM fest, the largest Asian American film festival in America, in San Francisco on May 23rd at 5pm pst. The film is virtual, but just for California audiences. If you’re in California, please purchase tickets at the CAAM website as there are limited seats! We will release more screening dates as they come out so keep posted Instagram @imanzawahry.
 
R.Did you find it a struggle being a hijabi and entering the entertainment business? 

I.I didn’t find a struggle as a hijabi filmmaker. Being one of the first hijabi filmmakers in America, I was really embraced for telling my story since it hasn’t been done before. I always say my bigger struggle is telling comedy in the independent film world where dramas are dominant. 


R.What advice do you have for aspiring filmmakers?

I.The theme in this interview: tell your story! You have a story that is unique to your experience that others want to hear. Hone your craft and find your voice to tell it as authentically and as honestly as possible. You have to remain passionate and driven as it is very challenging in this industry. 

R.How can we follow your journey?

I. am most active in Instagram @imanzawahry. Also on Facebook with the same name. My Twitter is imankzfilm, but I sadly don’t use that as much! 

Rumki Chowdhury
Rumki Chowdhury

ONLINE ASSISTANT EDITOR FOR HAYATI MAGAZINE, PUBLISHED AUTHOR, POET AND JOURNALIST WITH AN MA IN ENGLISH LITERATURE. BORN IN BANGLADESH, RAISED IN USA, LIVED AND STUDIED IN UK AND NOW, AN ENGLISH TEACHER IN SWEDEN. ALSO, MARRIED AND MOTHER OF THREE DAUGHTERS.

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