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Inside Americanish 

A Conversation with Producer Roy Wol

Last Updated: 10/11/2021 2:05 pm
click to enlarge Still from Americanish; Aizzah Fatima, Shenaz Treasury, Godfrey, Lilette Dubey, Salena Qureshi. - COURTESY OF STUDIO AUTONOMOUS
  • Courtesy of Studio Autonomous
  • Still from Americanish; Aizzah Fatima, Shenaz Treasury, Godfrey, Lilette Dubey, Salena Qureshi.

On September 29 as part of the Woodstock Film Festival, Americanish screened at the Woodstock Playhouse. The new film follows the life of two Pakistani-American sisters and their newly immigrated cousin as the three navigate love, life, career ambitions, and the complex intersectionalities of womanhood. During the film festival, Chronogram cultural contributor Sparrow and his friend Ripple interviewed Roy Wol, one of the four producers of the film.

A Q&A with Producer Roy Wol

Roy Wol: I am one of the producers of Americanish. It’s about four American Muslim women living in Jackson Heights, Queens and making a life for themselves. The film premiered in San Francisco at the Center for Asian American Media in May, winning an audience award, it’s play two times in New York City, and we have 17 festivals between now and mid-November.

Sparrow
: So it’s four young Muslim women…?

Wol: Young and old. Lillete Dubey, she’s a legend from India, she’s playing the mother of two sisters. And the husband left, when the kids were younger, and it’s about that difference between generations and how to mold to American culture.

Sparrow: The women are from India?

Wol: Pakistan. The film is based on a one-woman show called Dirty Paki Lingerie, that has been traveling the world for about 10 years, written by Aizzah Fatima, who’s also the lead actress in the film. She’s also a writer, and producer. About the eight years ago the director, Iman Zawahry – she’s an American Muslim herself – went to see Aizzah’s show and was very inspired. She was looking to make a coming-of-age story – a “rom-com” – and they started collaborating. They been writing it for three or four years. Fundraising has been extremely challenging, and to be quite frank with you, the entire film has been funded by American Muslims.

click to enlarge Still from Americanish; Aizzah Fatima, Shenaz Treasury, Salena Qureshi - COURTESY OF STUDIO AUTONOMOUS
  • Courtesy of Studio Autonomous
  • Still from Americanish; Aizzah Fatima, Shenaz Treasury, Salena Qureshi

Sparrow: So this movie is the first of its kind…?

Wol: Yes. We like to say it’s the “first American-Muslim rom-com made by American Muslim women of diverse backgrounds."

Sparrow: Everyone in the film wears a hijab?

Wol: No, not everyone, and that’s the point of the film. There are many different types of women in the film. I know if Aizzah and Iman were here, the makers of the film, they would say that there’s a certain stigma attached to American Muslim women.

Sparrow: The prejudice that all Islamic women are oppressed…

Wol: Yes.

Sparrow:… unlike us free Americans.

Wol: Yes.

Ripple: Are any of the families mixed?

Wol: Well, it’s a great thing you brought that, because I am a Third Culture Kid. I’m not sure if you are familiar with this term.

Sparrow: No.

Wol: TCKs, we are a pretty large minority that most people don’t know about. As we grow up, our parents move between many countries, and as our cultural sense of identity is developing, we start getting pieces of different cultures, which makes us ultimately cross-culturally almost nomads—from everywhere, yet from nowhere.

click to enlarge Producer Roy Wol with WFF founder Miera Blaustein - PHOTO BY JASON F VASQUEZ
  • Photo by Jason F Vasquez
  • Producer Roy Wol with WFF founder Miera Blaustein

Sparrow: Nationless.

Wol: Nationless. Stateless. The reason I was connected to this film—to be frank, I’m neither American, nor Muslim, nor a woman—none of those are me!

Sparrow: That’s funny.

Wol: But I was so inspired by it, for me America is a melting pot—the perfect melting pot. That’s why I decided to come here. What this film has proved to us, so far, with all the screenings that we’ve had, is when you share a message, but make it much lighter, it really seems to be connecting with a lot more people. It’s not heavy. We played in Arkansas, and a white man said, “This is my story”—because he has a big family with five kids, with many different personalities. We also played in Cincinnati Ohio, where we connected with people from a Thai background. They really understood the film.

Sparrow: So there is a kind of politics to you’re doing.

Wol: Family is where it all starts. And I think stories about family, they’re so core, they can connect with anyone. Anyone. I think if there’s bridging to be done, it could start in the family. And then it could go beyond.

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