ISF Filmmakers Reflect on Sundance Filmmaking Cohort

For Samia Khan and Akram Shibly, Sundance wasn't just a film festival; it was a transformative journey that intertwined professional growth with spiritual nourishment.

ISF Filmmakers Reflect on Sundance Filmmaking Cohort
Khan and Shibly are currently working on documentary projects and were recent participants in an artist support program at Sundance.

In a recent interview on the podcast “American Muslim Project,” filmmakers Samia Khan and Akram Shibly discuss their experience attending the 2024 Sundance Film Festival as part of the Islamic Scholarship Fund (ISF)’s cohort.

For Shibly and Khan, Sundance wasn't just a film festival; it was a transformative journey that intertwined professional growth with spiritual nourishment. Both discussed how enriching it was to be in a curated cohort of Muslim storytellers and filmmakers.

Early in the podcast, Shibly reminisced about his first encounter with Sundance five years ago as a graduate student, exploring the festival's offerings independently. However, his recent visit with ISF, the Doris Duke Foundation and the Sundance Institute was a curated experience that he says felt tailor-made for him. The real magic, he notes, lay in the connections forged within the cohort of Muslim storytellers and filmmakers — a supportive community navigating the complexities of today's world through their art.

Khan echoed Shibly’s sentiments, highlighting the significance of vulnerability in the creative process. She emphasized the importance of embracing one's multiple identities and delving into the depths of storytelling with conviction and authenticity.

The two filmmakers said that their days at Sundance were filled with intimate conversations, film screenings and reflections on the intersectionality of their identities as Muslim filmmakers. 

But Shibly and Khan also noted that their experiences at Sundance weren't just confined to the screening rooms. Their cohort found solace and inspiration in affinity houses like the festival’s Muslim House and South Asia House, where they engaged in discussions about creating infrastructure to support diverse narratives and amplify marginalized voices in the film industry.

Both Shibly and Khan shared the premises of their upcoming films. Shibly’s documentary focuses on the journey of a mosque member who led a citywide campaign for a mother's freedom after she was unjustly incarcerated, while Khan’s film delves into her personal experience with her father's involvement in a major financial scandal. Both projects aim to shed light on important societal issues and showcase Muslim narratives on a global stage.

As their conversation drew to a close, it's evident that Shibly and Khan’s time at Sundance was more than just a professional milestone — it was a reaffirmation of their purpose as storytellers. Through their films, both filmmakers aim to challenge stereotypes, amplify marginalized voices and pave the way for a more inclusive and equitable film industry.

Listen to the full interview with Shibly and Khan on “American Muslim Project” below or wherever you listen to podcasts.

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