Staying Grounded While Making Films With Fawzia Mirza

Fann sat down with filmmaker Fawzia Mirza to ask them about their feature debut “The Queen of My Dreams” and the film’s upcoming U.S. debut at SXSW.

Staying Grounded While Making Films With Fawzia Mirza
Photo source: Instagram

Fawzia Mirza (she/they) is a queer, South Asian Muslim writer and director. Her directorial feature debut “The Queen of My Dreams” (2023) — shot in Canada and Pakistan — world premiered at TIFF 2023, was nominated for the Jean-Marc Vallée DGC Discovery Award and named to Canada’s Top Ten 2023. It had its international premiere at the BFI London Film Festival and was nominated for the Sutherland First Feature Award. “The Queen of My Dreams” was in TIFF’s 2020 Writer Studio and Filmmaker Lab and stars Amrit Kaur ("The Sex Lives of College Girls"), Nimra Bucha ("Ms. Marvel", "Polite Society"), Hamza Haq ("Transplant"), and Ayana Manji ("Mustache"). Bio adapted from Mirza’s website.

Fann sat down with Mirza to ask them about “The Queen of My Dreams” and the film’s upcoming U.S. premiere at SXSW.

(This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)

Fann Staff: Where did the film's title come from?

“The Queen of My Dreams” was the name of my first short film I made that world premiered in 2012. It is inspired by the famous song "Mere Sapnon Ki Rani" from the 1969 Indian film “Aradhana.”

Fann Staff: What is it like to have your film premiere at both TIFF and SXSW?

Fawzia Mirza: We have been on, Alhamdulillah, an incredible journey — world premiering at TIFF, then the BFI London Film Festival, and now SXSW for its U.S. premiere. Every festival has felt like the perfect fit, the perfect launchpad, the perfect audience. We feel blessed to share a movie centering Muslim love.

Fann Staff: This was based on a short you made more than 10 years ago. What has that journey been like?

Fawzia Mirza: I made that short film before I even knew I was a filmmaker. And it took my filmmaker friend Ryan Logan telling me he thought we could turn the footage I had shot, which I intended to be part of an art installation, into a movie. Making that movie — sharing that movie — was life-changing. Art most definitely saved my life. Since then, it has been a journey of self-discovery through art. I've made short films, short series and another feature, and moved from Chicago to Los Angeles to write for television. I went from being a lawyer to an actor to a writer to now a writer/director. I met my wife through film. The journey has been incredible.

Fann Staff: What does it mean to you that the reception from all communities (ie: Muslim, queer, Pakistani, American) has been overwhelmingly positive?

Fawzia Mirza: Making a movie is a miracle. 

When you put your whole heart into something, and that love is met, it's a blessing.

Fann Staff: What was it like working with Amrit, Nimra and Hamza? 

Fawzia Mirza: I love all three of these actors — they are all very different and have extremely different strengths that they bring to set and to the work each day. The thing they share is that they are all deeply committed and unwavering in that commitment. Amrit playing two characters — she never flinched, it never threw her off. She reveled in the challenges. Hamza felt like he was born to be in the 60s. And Nimra, she makes a depth of emotion look easy. 

Fann Staff: Any lessons learned from this process you want to share with aspiring filmmakers?

Fawzia Mirza: Stay patient. Stay grounded. Stay focused. The road is long and circuitous, and is different for everything. Be kind to everyone. Center your values over your ego. 

 “The Queen of My Dreams” (2023) will have its U.S. premiere at SXSW on March 9, 2024.

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