• Monday, March 04, 2024

Entertainment

Fawzia Mirza: Queer identity and ‘The Queen Of My Dreams’

The Canadian writer-director talks about her debut film described as a Bollywood-infused tribute to queer Muslim joy

Fawzia Mirza

By: Asjad Nazir

BEAUTIFULLY described as a Bollywood-infused tribute to queer Muslim joy, The Queen Of My Dreams has had successful premieres at major movie festivals in Toronto and London recently, and great acclaim.

The feature directorial debut of Fawzia Mirza tells the story of Canadian queer woman Azra, who reconnects with her roots in Pakistan after a tragedy and goes on a collision course with her mother Mariam.

The comedy-drama sees Sex Lives of College Girls star Amrit Kaur playing Azra and Mariam during her younger days. The multi-layered movie mixing up stories of a mother and daughter has announced accomplished actress Mirza as an exciting filmmaking talent.

Eastern Eye caught up with the Canadian writer-director at the BFI London Film Festival to find out more.

What first connected you to filmmaking?

I started as an actor. Well, actually I was a lawyer first. I left lawyering to pursue acting on a lawyer’s debt. And then, when I didn’t see enough roles for myself, I started writing them and casting my friends in small indie projects. I didn’t know how to make films. I just knew that I didn’t feel represented and wanted to be. It’s only been in the last few years that I decided to direct my work. So, it’s been a journey.

What inspired your new film The Queen Of My Dreams?

It has got roots in the first short film I ever made called The Queen Of My Dreams, which came out in 2012. And that film was a very public conversation about a really private struggle about whether I could be queer and Muslim and love Bollywood romance. And, you know, I actually made that as sort of an experimental art installation piece. A friend of mine helped me make it into a three minute short film.

A scene from The Queen Of My Dreams

 How impactful was that short film and what happened next?

The healing that film had on me and other folks I met, as it toured the festival circuit, was beautiful and inspiring. It made me realise that I really had to make more art. And because I was an actor at the time, the big dream was to do a play. So, I wanted to do a one-person show. I worked with a company in Chicago to develop a one-person play, inspired by the short film, and that was called Me, My Mom and Sharmila. I performed the play in Chicago, and then around the country and even performed it in three cities in Pakistan.

 How did that play lead to your feature film?

The impact that play had on me and on audiences made me think about it more. And it was around the same time I started being in the film industry a bit more. I went and made another film, but really, I knew there was a feature film in my future, so that spark of the connection to Sharmila Tagore, to Bollywood, between mothers and daughters, that thread has been carried with me for many years.

 What do you reckon was the biggest challenge of making this movie?

I think making a movie is a miracle. Making any movie is a miracle. I think, you know, as a first-time feature director, it was challenging to work in two countries in different continents with two different crews. But I feel so lucky to have had the team that I did.

How important was it for you to get a strong cast?

You know, casting is everything. I think you can have an incredible film, but when the chemistry isn’t there between the characters, everything else doesn’t matter. So casting was key to this film, and I feel really thrilled that we got the cast that we did, and they all connected the way they did. Amrit Kaur, Nimra Bucha, Ayana Manji, Hamza Haq, Gule-Rana, Meher Jaffri and Ali Kazmi.

 How does it feel being selected at the BFI London Film Festival?

It’s incredible to be at the BFI. You know, my first feature screenplay I wrote, Signature Move was at the BFI Flare (festival) in 2017. And, you know, it was an incredible experience because the audiences just got what I was making. So, I couldn’t imagine a better place to have our international premiere than the London Film Festival. I was so excited about our screenings.

What is your own favourite moment in the movie?

Tricky question. I have many favourite moments in the film. Every moment for me, sparks 100 memories at this point. But I love the ending.

What is the key message of this film?

I think you have to watch the film, so you can feel the message itself, I would say. But I would say it is love.

Finally, what can we expect next from you?

Got to watch and see. Follow me on Instagram y’all.

Instagram: @thefawz

Eastern Eye

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