We sat down with new film faculty member Afia Nathaniel to ask about her life, her artistic passions and what she's working on right now:
Q. Where were you when you found out you were an official selection by your country for an Academy Award? How did you feel?
A: It was a surreal moment in 2014. I was standing in my producer’s office in Karachi when the cell phone rang. The chair of the Oscar committee in Pakistan called to give the news that our feature film Dukhtar was going to represent the country’s official submission in the “Best Foreign Language Film” category. We had just had our World Premiere at Toronto where we played to sold out audiences. We were headed into a theatrical release in Pakistan so this news was really exciting. This film had been a labor of love for ten years. Suddenly it was in the spotlight. From Busan to Stockholm to Dubai to Sao Paulo. We were getting rave reviews. A feminist road trip thriller had crossed the boundaries of language and geography and was being embraced by critics and audiences alike. It was so exciting and humbling at the same time.
Q: What are your top three favorite films? television show?
A: I’m a huge fan of Kubrick and Kurosawa. It’s hard to pick only three but if I have to they are: Dr. Strangelove, Space Odyssey 2001, Ikiru. I’m also watching lots of shows and really loving the originality and daring that is possible in TV. If you’re looking for a mind bender you must watch Dark. I’m anxiously waiting for the next season. I have a long list of shows I want to watch. So I finally caught up with TruBlood after all these years and have been binge watching it. There’s something so comforting about watching a show which reminds me of Bollywood films. There’s over-the-top drama, comedy, fantasy and action all rolled up in the story’s world. Never a dull moment! But the TV show which is the mother of all TV shows is definitely Star Trek – the original one.
Q: What big project are you working on?
A: I have several projects in development. The one which is consuming me right now is a TV show I am developing based on the book Watched by Marina Budhos. It is the story of a Muslim teenager in post 9/11 New York City who is forced to become a snitch for the authorities. When I read the book two years ago, the slow burn of a thriller grew inside me and I knew I wanted to explore this teenager’s life for the screen. I also want to explore the perspective of an immigrant community in the crosshairs of surveillance in a post 9/11 world. What does it mean to grow up in such a community? What does it mean to be a brown Muslim teenager in a time rife with religious racism?
Q: What is the best advice for young filmmakers?
I think Bela Tarr said it best, “Be yourself; find your style, your way; find the border and cross it, or else you may be lost or, even worse, boring. Don’t forget what you really want to say; there is no recipe. The recipe is you.”