By Zubaydah Bashir
A few years ago, I would not have told you I wanted to be a filmmaker, or be involved in activism. I would have given you an entire list of occupations I couldn’t even remember today.
Honestly, I think I did not know what I wanted to do, even when I always had a million answers for those who asked: “what should I do with my life?”
My decision to becoming a filmmaker was born from an epiphany. I remember literally saying to myself that I like to write, but I wished there was a way I could bring my stories to life. That’s when I realized filmmaking was something I needed to be a part of.
As a young Black woman, I, like many of my peers, will likely face many more hardships upon the road to success more than any other ethnic group— which is something I can already attest to. To be transparent, I used to suffer from severe insecurity and anxiety. As an adult, I stand 4’9,” and in conjunction with my ancestry, I’ve faced a lot of adversity growing up.
I’m beginning to learn that the key to persevering is to take whatever negative energy is thrown at you, and use it as fuel to achieve your goals. For me, that energy has manifested as the foundation of my career.
My directorial and screenwriting debut with my short film, Into Silence, was the first time I let the world hear my voice raised against adversity and oppression.
I had been watching the news when I saw that Trump’s travel ban was in effect, and immediately came up with the storyline. I pictured a world where people had become violently intolerant of one another because of culture and religion, on a dramatic scale.
Into Silence is a film that goes beyond telling the story of a young Middle-Eastern woman in the cross hairs of a civil war. She has to make the decision to sacrifice her identity in order to survive in society. It forces viewers to imagine a world no one is safe in their own skin, and explores the themes of self-identity, feminism, kinship, and hope.
With this film, I wanted to show that when actions are taken against a group of people no matter the color, origin, or gender, it alienates that group. It doesn’t solve issues, but instead, pushes people further apart, and oppresses those who are targeted. I wanted to create something that would promote talk and foster change on these issues.
The most difficult part about this project was putting myself out there, and putting my reputation on the line since this is my first film by which I was going to make my first impression on the world. I had to find a way to form such a heavy, controversial piece in a short amount of time.
Yet with determination, I was able to articulate what I wanted to say. My passion for the project is what gave me the courage to take the leap.
Now I push through as a storyteller. I’m realizing that not everyone is going to want to put themselves on the line, or support the stories I want to tell. I set my standards high, and connect myself with people who want to build new foundations, and tell the stories that are long overdue.
At some point in your life, you’re going to second guess yourself. You’re going to want to give up. You’re going to want to settle, back down and submit. You’re going to care what people think. I realize the same issues I face will be the same issues someone else is, or has, gone through already—that’s life. That doesn’t mean you give up or compromise your dreams. The more obstacles that arise, the closer you are towards making a difference and being successful in your endeavor.
To the women of Africa and the Diaspora, whose voices have been suppressed for so long, we are strong, and together, we are an impregnable force to be reckoned with.
Zubaydah is a New York based screenwriter and director for film and TV. She has completed several short film projects in which she directed, produced, wrote, art directed, and edited. Her short film, Into Silence, made its world premier in Berlin, Germany, and is currently in the film festival circuit. A film kween, she is also the VIP Office Assistant for the Tribeca Film Festival, and one of the Orange Hat Team Office Managers at Tribeca Film Institute. Currently, a pre-screener for the Hollywood Film Festival, and the Beloit International Film Festival, an editorial intern at OkayAfrica, and the marketing and programming intern for Bushwick Film Festival.