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Sahera Khan, the director of "FAITH": Promoting Diversity and Equality19.02.2021

3rd edition of Papaya Rocks Film Festival starts on February 22nd. Ahead of the event, we speak to the filmmakers who submitted their films to the festival.

More info about the festival and tickets can be found here.

Papaya Rocks Film Festival 2021 Trailer

How are you holding up during these very strange times? Has this time offered you any creative inspiration? 

I know times are strange but fortunately I am continuing my creative work and spending time with my family. Yes, since the lockdown in March, I have been working on my creative work e.g., I have made more videos on my channel (YouTube), developing my next short film and spending more time concentrating on my creative work. 

Can you tell me a little bit about your film, how did this film come about? 

My film is based on LGBT and faith, specific for women and the Muslim community, Tahila and Marlyn are best friends, Marylyn (Judy Newsome) re vealed she is a lesbian. Taliha (Sahera Khan) never expected to hear this from Marylyn as she never thought about the LGBT in the Muslim community. 
A couple of years ago, I was given a theme to work on "conflict" through a course I studied, this gave me the initial idea of writing FAITH. When LGBT opened freely in 2018, I thought about the LGBT community in the Muslim community, as I wondered: "what about the Muslim Deaf LGBT?". I knew some people but not fully, so I thought this is an issue that needs to be raised and raise awareness on how we a Muslim community can support those who are Muslim and LGBT or is the community against this. 

It is important to be able to give opportunities to show diverse and equality.

What where the biggest challenges you faced brining your film to life?

My biggest challenge was to raise money towards this film. I had gone crowdfunding through Kickstarter but I returned the money back to the contributors because the story had changed. It was difficult to cast a real LGBT Muslim Deaf female. I decided to change the character to a non-muslim female and made a few changes to the script. 
For the film to actually happen, I paid from my own pocket to cover the costs for the cast, crew, insurance and other expenses. The filming took place in a café, but there was an issue around moving the tables and creating space as it clashed with other people who were working on their shows. The editing on the video took longer than expected and was released for the festivals in late March 2020 due to COVID-19. The trailer was shown in March and the first release was in May 2020, which was first shown in New Zealand. 

Looking back is there anything you would have done differently on this film? 

Looking back, I would have given more time on the casting as it was harder than expected. I should have filmed using wide shot throughout the scenes, because there was one scene missing, as there was no wide shot for the "hugging" scene which was meant to be at the beginning. I had learnt from the other deaf director to always film the scenes in wide shot. 

Describe your film in three words? 

Conflict. Religion. Drama.

Where did your passion for filmmaking come from? 

My passion for filmmaking started from when I started writing stories, I want ed my stories on screen but there were limited opportunities around this country but someone advised me go on learning filmmaking course. I took a course called Film Digital School from Open University, I learned lots about filmmaking. That is how I started experimenting in filmmaking. I made a few films but also writing and acting, I worked by myself and with a small crew. 

What has been some of the best advice you’ve been give? 

I can’t even remember, however, a few filmmakers and speakers had advised me "make a good story, create a film, it don’t worry about low quality or high budget" and "just show your work to as many as possible". Also learning from their experiences and skills, it is always important to re search and look at the films style. 

There are deaf actors using British Sign Language on the screen. It can be a sensitive topic for the Muslim community – it' s the first film touching that matter.

Should filmmakers continue to push the boundaries of the films and stories they want to tell?

Depends on the stories, as the stories can be sensitive topics. For example if you cast a hearing actor for a deaf character, this is politicly incorrect. It is important to be able to give opportunities to show diverse and equality e.g. black actors, deaf actors and disabled actors to match the character roles. Remember to research and seek the right advise from the communities – religion groups or disabled people.

Do you have any tips or advice you would offer a fellow filmmaker? 

I would say: find your passion to be a filmmaker and remember that hard work pays off.  Go and learn from any short filmmaking course. I attended Raindance Saturday School for one day. It was very useful to learned the summary about filmmaking and acting and it was affordable. 

What do you hope people will take away from your film? 

I hope my film could impact the audience, when they will see there are deaf actors using British Sign Language on the screen. It can be a sensitive topic for the Muslim community – it' s the first film touching that matter. I would like to see more opportunities for deaf people who are interested in filming, acting and writing and for the professional filmmakers, artists and creative industries to be more open to deaf talents and artists and give them the opportunity to showcase their work.

Short film drama FAITH (2019) Teaser (Music & Voiceovers) by Sahera Khan 2020
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