Creating Nuanced Muslim Film Characters with Iram Parveen Bilal


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This week we’re joined by filmmaker and activist Iram Parveen Bilal.

Her first feature film, a mystery thriller called Josh: Independence Through Unity, was Pakistan's first movie to be on Netflix. Her latest, I'll Meet You There, is a drama set in Chicago that covers intergenerational family conflict, the post-9/11 American Muslim experience, and disparately minded people trying to meet in the middle. Premiering digitally at SXSW last year (with no shortage of COVID snafus), the script is actually a decade-old project that was adapted as challenges were broached and her own reflections on life and society changed. Iram's currently working on a project about media influencers and women claiming space in both the physical and online worlds.

Whether watching her films or interviewing her for a podcast, it’s clear that Iram is a natural storyteller. She draws us in with equal-parts compelling and disturbing anecdotes of a beautiful moment at a Muslim Ban protest, Patriot Act abuses, and real-life objections to scripts, such as the world can’t accept Muslim protagonists, this mosque seems too safe, and the FBI wouldn’t do that. We relate to the powerful perspectives that world travel can provide, recent moments of the American public making us proud—unlike those in power—and leaving a promising career to pursue a passion and fulfill a responsibility. Trump’s impact on the American Muslim community and growing Muslim representation in film are broached, as are investments for independent filmmakers, powerful biases in media and politics, and the cycle of centering white stories and actors. We can’t help but savor her assertion that it’s even hip to be Muslim now, while lamenting the fact that it’s taken this long for POC to feel seen.

You can watch I'll Meet You There now from home (released in the Middle East as of tomorrow) and see the latest news @illmeetyoutherethefilm. Follow Iram on Instagram @irampbilalofficial, Facebook @iramparveenbilal, and Twitter @irampbilal for all her thoughts, nuanced characters, and dynamic works, old and new.
American Muslim Project is a production of Rifelion, LLC.
Writer and Researcher: Lindsy Gamble
Show Edited by Mark Annotto and Asad Butt
Music by Simon Hutchinson
Hosted by Asad Butt

44 episodes