Hijra’ s Hustle – by Almass Badat

I caught up with my daughter sometime ago and had interviewed her… reading this makes me feel so proud of her as an individual, as a woman, as a film maker but most importantly as a dream maker.

Almass has the traits of her mother – if the opportunity is there grab it by the horns – and worry about the consequences later!

Here is my interview with one of the very best of the young today.

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Almass Badat is a London-based freelance filmmaker. Co-funded by One World Media, her debut documentary Hijra’s Hustle: The Introduction adopts a refreshing take on international reporting.

Q.We all hear so often about the lack of original stories in the world. That we’ve all “seen it before”. How do you stay fresh in the face of an idea like that?

A.Every Artist has a unique lens through which they see the world, so no two pieces of work can be exactly the same. People may emulate a theme of an idea, but they can never approach it the way you can.

Q.Why do you think there are so few women in film making?

A. We live, work and breathe in a patriarchal system. It’s pretty much as simple as that.

Q.What is the one mistake most filmmakers make, regardless of experience?

A.Not so much of a mistake, but one of the best things about filmmaking is that you can never be prepared enough. Plans fall through, equipment doesn’t arrive on time, or interviews get cancelled – is keeps you on your toes, and the adventure going!

Q.Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?

A.I reckon that both have their challenges. When you begin, no one knows who you are and there are a lot of closed doors, however, you have all the world to conquer and no bar of comparison. I’m not sure what the challenges are once you’re established as I am yet to experience that, but I do know that consistency and staying true to your Self and your work is key, to navigating safely through the industry.

Q.?What advice would you give to someone who wanted to have a life creating film?

A.Just do it. By any means necessary, live your truth.

Q.It all starts with the script.” Maybe not, but when do you know a script is ready to shoot, and what is your process of getting it there?

A.I’ve never written a treatment before filming a first draft. If I have an idea for a documentary, I spend time with and shoot the subjects beforehand. This is crucial in developing a relationship with the person in front of the camera, as well as comfortably finding out what their narrative/story is. Communication and transparency is so, so important. I often find that I may have an initial concept/angle I want to a approach a film with, but during the development process, the characters and their narratives override my own. When I feel that there is a strong story, that’s when the treatment/film begins to take shape. This process can take months, and is the best part as you uncover so much and have so much fun! It’s my way of finding true, honest stories, instead of projecting onto a subject.
Q.What inspired you to make this documentary?

A. A few years ago, I visited Pakistan with my family, and had my first encounter with a person who identified as a Hijra. Before I had time to process a conversation with her, the elders in my family whisked me away to ‘safety’. This censorship of communication didn’t settle well with me, and the moment stayed with me for a couple of years till the opportunity to explore this topic came up again. As you watch the documentary, you are witnessing my own findings as they happened.

Q.What were your highs and lows of the project?

A. The highs were being able to visit India. I had heard so many stories and seen so many photographs of where my family came from, and when I stepped foot on Indian soil, I felt as though I had found one of my roots. Tasting the food, talking to the people and in turn getting to know myself better in a realistic and all-round way was invaluable. In hindsight, to walk away with a completed documentary is priceless. In comparison to the highs, there were miniscule, and were probably centred around logistical planning, like failing to secure interviews and forgetting camera equipment (yes, it happened!) – these ended up being good learning experiences.

Q.How did you source funding?

A. I applied for the One World Media Production Fund, which you can apply for every year. This awarded me the first £1000 towards my project. After that, I funded the project myself. I did try to apply for extra funding, but was unsuccessful.

Q. I understand you had a recent screening of Hijra’s Hustle – what was the response from the audience?

A. When I was on set and in the editing suite, the perception of my work is quite insular. As soon as it opened up to an audience, I really got a feel of what the documentary was like. I think the screening went well, and had an insightful response. I felt as though people had walked away learning a thing or two, which is great, as I always aimed to provide a platform for people who didn’t otherwise have contact to the audience I have. It’s all about connecting people and their stories.

Q. What’s next?

A. I would love to go go back to Bangalore to screen the documentary to everyone that was involved, and all the new friends I made. In the future, it would be fantastic to film a feature length version, as I have only scratched the surface. With future work, I have a few documentary ideas I hope to see on television soon.

Keep up to date with Almass via her website, almassbadat.com.
For enquiries or to get in touch with Almass, email her at almassbadat@gmail.com.

Ms Safirah Irani

Twitter@Safirah63

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