Daughters of a Different Path is a story about a young African American woman, Leanna, who seeks her mother’s acceptance. After her mother rejects her decision of becoming Muslim, Leanna begins to deal with inner obstacles of doubt. The story is not only about Leanna’s conversion and the repercussions of her decision, but about transforming her mother’s rejection to love.
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Why this story?
There are many depictions of Arabs as bloodthirsty, violent people who plunder and rape. These are the kind of portrayals I grew up with as a kid and made me ashamed of my identity. Consequently, I did everything in my power to erase that part of myself. For me, being White meant being socially and economically secure. However, since then I have made it my goal in life to retell our story. In doing so, I hope to find my voice as a person of color living in America and to use my lived experience and my research on other Muslim Americans to create more authentic portrayals, ones that do not involve being a villain.
I have consulted various works about Muslim women converts living in America throughout the screenwriting process to achieve an accurate representation and get at the truth of the story. A reference book included was Muslim Women in America by Yvonne Yazbeck, Jane I. Smith, and Kathleen M. Moore. Additionally, I have had the tremendous opportunity of speaking with Muslim women converts who have graciously shared their harrowing experiences and challenges in joining Islam. As their accounts confirm, typically the hijab is associated with violence, abuse, and oppression. This film aims to dismantle these ideas and depict the headscarf in a more positive light so that for the main character, the hijab represents strength.
Films can help people. Films can hurt people. The history of American cinema has denigrated people of color for decades. Upon seeing the problematic film, The Birth of a Nation (D.W. Griffith, 1915), President Woodrow Wilson referred to it as “writing with lightning.” The film is controversial for its dehumanizing depiction of African Americans and subsequent rejuvenation of the Ku Klux Klan. As a result, it contributed to the lynching and death of many African Americans. More broadly, the narrative of America is false. It was built on the exploitation and villainization of minorities. In popular culture, negative depictions have been repeatedly projected on-screen for Americans to subconsciously internalize. As a result, it will take decades to reimagine the stories of people who have been historically marginalized and villainized on screen. The problem includes stereotypical depictions of Arabs, which have had a damaging effect on the lives of Arab Muslim Americans. Cinema has the power to demonize people, but it can also be used as a positive tool to illuminate lives that are too often distorted or unacknowledged.
Looking at films that have made a mark on the industry within the past decade, there is a noticeable shift towards the demand for stories of people who are marginalized. As a person of color, I see an unprecedented opportunity to ride the waves of change and have our story be told truthfully. The character in my film is human. It is important for me to not conceal the truth by depicting the character as an angel. She is flawed. Muslims make mistakes like everyone else, but that does not make us terrorists. Daughters of a Different Path is a project that will help me break out and continue creating stories of similar resonance for the Arab Muslim community.
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Below is a teaser trailer for Daughters of a Different Path. I hope you enjoy it!