“I think that shooting outside of a theatre is symbolic of the world I could never get into because of pushback from everyone, including my own community at times, and of course the industry. I've always just been outside wanting to get in. Maybe there is some beauty in being an outsider?“
Nawal is a 23-year-old documentary media masters student. Her greatest passions are acting and film-- to the extent that one summer during her undergrad she prioritized watching 2 films a day for 5 months straight. She founded a Muslim dramatic arts club while she pursued her undergrad called “Greenlight productions.” For three years she was the president, and ran over 25 acting and film events single handedly, some being screenwriting and filmmaking workshops, and a film showcase to empower young Muslim filmmakers. When I asked her what the most challenging experience has been pertaining to her passion she told me, “I took a couple of acting classes with this ignorant teacher who never knew how to give me roles to play because I wore the hijab. She asked me twice if I could take it off [the hijab] for a role, and she would always say, "You know, I just can't imagine this character being religious," as if the hijab is an indicator of religiosity.” In general, Nawal is fed up with stereotypes that are placed on herself and the way media portrays Muslim women. She told me, “I find that in fiction filmmaking, Muslim women are painted with a single brush stroke. Often you hear, "I'm going to make a film about a Muslim woman!" and we are expected to fill in the blanks of the character description, and plot/story arch - as if we only have one story. It's extremely frustrating because you never hear, ‘I'm going to be making a film about a white guy!’ That would never fly in a pitch. So why do it with Muslim women? Why can't we be neutral as well, and have varying and compelling character descriptions, plots and story arch?”
What is a fun fact about you that you haven’t told me yet?
"My dream in life would be to act in a Batman film that takes place in Arkham Asylum, and I am playing a villain!"
What is your favourite quality about yourself?
"I'd like to think I have integrity. There have been many occasions where I've given up things because I've felt they were unethical. Even when I started wearing the hijab, I told myself, "Nawal, if you never get another opportunity to act again, you're never at a loss when you have God."