THE INJURED BODY (2024) is a documentary film written and directed by Mara Ahmed, a Pakistani American artist and filmmaker based on Long Island, New York. The Injured Body examines racism through the lens of microaggressions: slights, slips of the tongue, and offenses that accumulate over a lifetime and impede a person’s ability to function and thrive in the world.
The film unpacks racism through honest conversations about racial microaggressions with a diverse group of women of color involved in community work in Western New York. The film’s title is inspired by Claudia Rankine’s book, Citizen: An American Lyric, in which she asks:
How to care for the injured body,
the kind of body that can’t hold
the content it is living?
And where is the safest place when that place
must be someplace other than in the body?
The film examines racism though the lens of micro-aggressions – slights, slips of the tongue, or intentional offenses that accumulate over a lifetime and impede a person’s ability to function and thrive in the world.
Return to Sender: Women of Color in Colonial Postcards & the Politics of Representation is a short, experimental film directed and produced by Mara Ahmed. It pushes the documentary medium in unexpected ways by opening with three contemporary South Asian American women who recreate British colonial postcards from the early 20th century. Dressed in lavish traditional attire and jewelry and shot exquisitely in a darkened studio, the women emulate the awkward poses of the postcard women, only to subvert the colonial male gaze and acquire autonomy by choosing an action of their own. This symbolic ‘returning’ of the Orientalist gaze is layered with discussions about Eurocentric beauty standards, representations of South Asian women in media and culture, stereotypes, othering, identity and belonging. The film hopes to create community by facilitating conversations about erasure and the politics of representation.
A THIN WALL (2015) is a documentary about memory, history and the possibility of reconciliation. It focuses on the Partition of India in 1947, but derives lessons that remain urgently relevant today. Shot on both sides of the border, in India and Pakistan, A THIN WALL is a personal take on Partition rooted in stories passed down from one generation to another. It is written and directed by Mara Ahmed and co-produced by Surbhi Dewan. Both filmmakers are descendants of families torn apart by Partition. The film is also a work of art infused with original animation, music and literary writing.
‘Mara Ahmed’s A THIN WALL is akin to a beautiful and powerful book of essays: many voices sharing poetic, personal, and political stories and viewpoints, woven together to convey a universal aching. It is a textural and tangible journey that captures a profound sense of loss for more than one generation. May we all embrace the lessons this film has to offer.’ (Linda Moroney, Director, Greentopia Film)
Mainstream media representations of Pakistan are exotic and violent, but we know very little about the people of Pakistan. This short documentary tries to bridge that gap by answering the question: what does the woman or man on the streets of Lahore think about America? Shot entirely in Lahore, Pakistan One on One (2011) is a broad survey of public opinion about issues of interest to Americans, such as the possibility of democracy in Pakistan, the War on Terror, the Taliban, and American foreign policy in the region.
‘PAKISTAN ONE ON ONE was an impromptu project. I went to Lahore to shoot a film about the partition. The media in Pakistan had changed so dramatically that I felt compelled to explore public opinions about the news. Also, when I screened my first documentary, “The Muslims I Know” (which is based on interviews with Pakistani Americans), audiences were eager to know what people in Pakistan thought. This film fulfills that need for dialogue. I am fascinated by people’s views about the “other” and I’m always trying to facilitate some rapprochement by showing something new or unexpected that does not jibe with mainstream stereotypes. Hopefully this is what this film accomplishes.’
(Mara Ahmed, Director and Producer, March 8, 2011)
The events of 9/11 have created much interest in Islam and Muslims. Mainstream media have responded to this demand for information with sweeping generalizations and easy stereotypes. America’s small community of Muslims longs to be a part of that discourse. This documentary (2008) gives them a chance to be heard and understood through dialogue with non-Muslim Americans.
If you yahoo the words “moderate Muslim” today you will get more than 8 million hits on the internet. This interest is the result of a post-9/11 Western world trying to make sense of Islam and its followers. The need to identify “militant jihadists” by distinguishing them from moderate Muslims has cast suspicion on all Muslims in America. Stereotypes are becoming well-entrenched. The purpose of this documentary is to break those stereotypes by showcasing Pakistani Americans and asking them questions non-Muslim Americans have framed through vox pop interviews. A secondary goal is to educate people about the basic tenets of Islam in order to highlight similarities with other Abrahamic faiths.