Editor’s note: Fathia Absie is a Somali-American filmmaker. Her film The Lobby is to debut at the Minneapolis, St. Paul International Film festival on April 13, 2015. Fathia shared this interview with us to discuss her journey through filmmaking. It’s with utmost joy we share this intriguing interview with our esteemed WDN readers. The interview was conducted by Yasmeen Maxamuud for WardheerNews.
WardheerNews: Fathia, your second film, The Lobby is showing on Mon, Apr 13, as part of the Minneapolis, St. Paul International Film festival, what can you tell us about your journey in making this film?
Fathis Absie: It was definitely an interesting step for me. My first film, Broken Dreams was a documentary which is basically interviewing people and letting them tell their own story in their own words. This film, The Lobby is a fiction narrative which means I had to write a script and tell a story in whichever way I wanted. Creating characters who then can act in it in order to tell the story and make it a real thing which is not that simple when it’s your first time doing it, but it was fun doing it and learning on the job.
WDN: What can you tell us about the film The Lobby and what led you to create this story?
FA: Friends and I were invited to attend a luncheon in the same Lobby where the story is taking place in the film. I just got captivated by the coziness of this place. The luncheon was in a separate area but I kept finding myself back to this spot while imagining drinking tea and sharing a conversation with someone. There was something very enchanting about it and I said to my friends, I need to find a way to utilize this space, I think I am going to write a story for it. I came back home that night and started writing the script. So it was the lobby of a building that inspired the film.
WDN: The Lobby depicts the story of a Muslim woman and a Caucasian American man. Why did you choose this plot and what lessons do you think the story, characters and setting will teach society as a whole?
FA: I guess it’s true when they say that writers write about what they know. I often travel and do things by myself which I enjoy very much because it gives me the chance to venture out and experience new things and meet new people. I love talking to strangers because we are a dialogue away from being strangers to one another. I came to Minnesota 4 years ago and it looks to me as if the Somali community here and the rest of the other Minnesotans live a world apart in terms of knowing one another and learning from each other. Minnesota has people of Norwegian and Swedish origins and they are pretty reserved and of course the Somali community is still new compare to other immigrants here so they kind of keep to themselves as well. As an extravert who loves to delve in things, I thought a dialogue was missing and who is better to bridge the gap than a Somali woman. We are the masters of many hats and it became our job to break barriers. It’s a universal story of friendship and the human connection which doesn’t know barriers or borders.
WDN: Where can people see the film The Lobby?
FA: Well, the film is going through some festivals now and as an indie filmmaker, it takes time to build yourself and your brand in the global setting. I don’t have a distribution yet and to be frank, I made this film to practice my craft and build myself first rather than the thinking that I will get a distribution right away. I am planning to have few screenings here in the Minneapolis area and then travel with the film this summer Insha Allah. The plan is to go to different cities in the States, Canada, The UK, Sweden and possibly Dubai. It’s very hard to raise capital for films and I don’t want to wait till I get funding to make movies. I have to make my own films in my own terms and traveling and showing the film this way, I can hopefully raise money for my next film.
WDN: As a filmmaker this is not your first film, your first documentary, Broken Dreams, featured the issue of young Somalis joining the terror orgnization Al Shabab in Somalia. Your film Broken Dreams was a breakthrough documntry on the issue at the time. With ISIS on the scence some four years after you made that film, what are some teaching momenets in Broken Dreams that are still true today for youngsters joining ISIS and Al-Shabab?
FA: There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t get an email that says thank you for telling this story. The film is used as a training manual and community outreach in many of the U.S Embassies in Europe, Canada and some parts of Africa. I hear that it gives concerned mothers and community leaders the courage to come forward when they see the film. To see others like them who are telling their stories assures them that they are not alone.
We often don’t show grief in our community and we discourage each other not to. But when you see mothers who lost their children and you see their tears, and hear the names of their children and the hopes and dreams that vanished in despair, it becomes all of us story. You suddenly realize that it’s alright to cry and that there is no shame in showing our emotions. We need to cry and dwell in our sorrow more often so that we will do whatever it takes to stop this madness of constant death and destruction. We must eradicate the reasons that make us relived and revisit this culture of violence and pain as Somalis.
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