Stories mean a lot to me. I was the kid with thick glasses in kindergarten because I kept reading Harry Potter books under the covers, even after my mom turned the lights off. I enjoyed hearing improvised tales from my grandma about princesses, who fought ghosts and angry fathers. Then as I got older, I became interested in the less fictional, reality-based memoirs of others – I found a new thrill in having coffee with a stranger and having them unfold their lives to me. The protagonist in this type of genuine storytelling escapes out of its own tale to become a real live, breathing person in front of me– divulging his or her complex characters and situations and struggles – all that actually occurred. I want to capture that and put it onto a screen- I want to make documentary films.
My personal story starts with me growing up in the Bay Area. Then, somewhere around the rising plot line you would find me in college at UCLA. In the rising tension you’d find that I came in undeclared, but after spending much of my time as a scholarly nomad, choose a double major in communications and international development studies, along with a minor in theatre. Then somewhere along the last few chapters I decide I want to spend my summer in Seattle.
When I made a cold call to Eli to ask for an internship position, I had not known how much her film was going to strike me in so many different ways. It’s also funny how parts of my own identity – storytelling, arts, activism, and woman’s issues – have led me to be swept up off my feet by the ALLY campaign. Arts activism is what I fight for on my campus and communities through my involvement with student groups like SANAA (Social Awareness Network for Arts Activism) and Cultural Affairs Commission. Some of my most memorable experiences at UCLA have been through working with these student groups. I’ve spend my past two years participating in and planning poetry slams, Vagina Monologues, an arts-centered mentoring program for high school students in Compton, and planning on Hip Hop Appreciation Month. It’s like when Eli said in her film how things lead up to where you are now… I’d like to think of me right now, in Seattle working for 9 Elephants, as an affirmation of that.
And in terms of the main character of my autobiography…as a first generation, Pakistani-Muslim American woman, I particularly connect to how it is so confusing to deal with how women are treated so variably, and often unjustly, all over the world and in my own culture. This backwardness is something all first-generation American children have to face as one can see the ingredients being put into the “melting pot” are not the same ones our parents knew about. We all today have mixed identities – being one culture, but growing up in another’s. Something like… not being able to speak to your grandparents in your own language, but joining in on enough Pho dinners at your Vietnamese best friend’s house to be able to decipher most of the language. Yeah, that feeling – a little bit of curry spice from this culture, a little bit of tamarind from another.
But there is still a long way for me to go before my story starts making any real sense, and I thank Eli for taking me under her wing to learn more about independent documentary production. Coming on board in the middle of this journey is a very exciting feeling when I look back and see all the support this film has gathered from the community. I hope to contribute my previous experiences in community outreach, marketing, journalism and my humble understanding of film to spread the word about A Lot Like You to more and more people who, I am sure, will also be touched by the power of ALLY and sharing their own story.