Published on June 9th, 2012 | by Jeremy Brown0
Mahin Ibrahim – Aspiring Film Director
By Jeremy Brown
(From time to time we will interview recipients of fellowships, prizes and film festival standouts. They haven’t quite made it yet, but their journey thus far can be helpful)
Mahin Ibrahim is interested in the current conversation the art world is having that she calls the Muslim Renaissance. She is pleased to see the number of young painters, writers, and filmmakers focusing on Islam and Muslims in a new way. Hers is a mission to introduce authentic, touching stories about Muslims that break stereotypes.
Mahin’s work as a filmmaker continues to speak to her desire to tell beautiful stories that show the lives of Muslims in new and more intimate ways. “The Wedding Night” is a short film that was featured in the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival 2012. No easy feat for a young Filmmaker to accomplish, but no surprise once you see the film. The short focuses on one of the most personal moments a Muslim couple shares: a newlywed wife removing her hijab for the first time. The story came from a class assignment to write about seduction. Mahin originally saw this as an assignment she couldn’t hope to relate to, since Muslims don’t date; you are single and then you are married. She didn’t feel qualified to do a piece on seduction. So she chose to focus on the moment of revelation for a brand new Muslim Couple.
Mahin’s “The Wedding Night”, does a great job of breaking some prolific Muslim stereotypes, like arranged marriages and domineering men, and touches on some profound traditions like praying before sex, and the moment of revealing yourself to a spouse you will be with forever. Her insight into the fear, patience, and understanding of two people meeting one another in intimacy for the first time is powerful and endearing. Not only does the audience feel the seduction of the young couple, but they also feel the draw into learning more about the beauty of Islam.
Q: Mahin can you explain the importance and personal nature of a Muslim woman who chooses to wear a hijab?
A: I will speak for myself. For me, someone who has worn a hijab since fourteen, I believe it is more personal for a man to see my hair accidentally than for him to see a part of her body. I also believe the hijab throws me into a daily social, even political, conversation about being a responsible, young, Muslim woman. There is something amazing and humbling about that responsibility for me. But, I also have fun. I listen to country music, pop, and joke around with my male best friend.
Mahin is a first generation American Muslim, whose family is from Bangladesh. Her parents immigrated to the US and struggled to give her and her three siblings a stable life and environment. Ibrahim went to UC Berkley and received her BA in Communications and Business to please and honor her parents. And although Mahin found a great job out of school at Google, she discovered that she was living vicariously through her good friend who was enrolled in USC’s Film program in almost every conversation they had. She knew it was time to follow her heart and do what she had been drawn to from a young age.
For Mahin’s family, being Muslim is the most important part of who a person is. So her decision to join the ranks of Hollywood confused them greatly. But after seeing the emotional impact that film can have, Mahin taught them that there is more to film than the perceived culture of Hollywood. Mahin shares the moment she won her father over with what she has chosen to do with her life. Her grandmother recently moved to the States and rotates residing with various members of the family. Mahin shot a documentary on her grandmother and showed it to her father. He sat down and watched it and cried. Mahin turned to her father and said, “This is the power of film. This is why I want to do this.”
Mahin Says she definitely feels the pressure to “bring it” on her next projects given the success she has seen with “The Wedding Night”. Surely they delve deeply into the lives of the Modern-day Muslim; surely they will be powerful, intimate, and filled with an insight Americans can learn from and be proud of.
Mahin hails from the Bay Area, CA where she attended UC Berkeley. In school, she became involved in social justice issues for Muslims. After graduating, Mahin worked for Google and YouTube, where she witnessed first-hand how the internet can create social change. A current graduate film student at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, she hopes to utilize film and online video to shatter stereotypes of Muslim Americans.