In conversation with Raabia Hussain, Independent filmmaker

26th Jul 2019
In conversation with Raabia Hussain, Independent filmmaker

Filmmaker Raabia Hussain in Nandi county, North Rift of Kenya
(Photo courtesy of Raabia Hussain)

Independent filmmaker, Raabia Hussain has worked on mainstream documentaries and projects with an internationally well-known broadcaster. For the last two years, she has worked for ITV in a variety of roles including directing, producing documentaries and has worked on programmes including Mission Employable. The self-proclaimed ‘travel nerdis a big fan of script-writing and photography is one of her main hobbies. Raabia gained worldwide acclaim with her first short film created as part of BSL (British Sign Language) Zone titled “September 11th.” Currently, in Kenya working with deaf volunteers as part of the Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) programme, Raabia took some time off her busy schedule to speak to The Muslim News about her volunteer work, challenges and aspirations as both a deaf and female Muslim in the film industry.

Tell us about the work you’re doing with VSO in Kenya?

I’m the team leader for VSO cycle 8. The team is made up of Kenyan and UK volunteers. I have also taken on the role of filmmaker, recording the journey of VSO in Kenya, and the impact VSO has on the communities they are working in. I am not here alone. With the vision of creating an impact in the communities, there is a team of us here and we have to be realistic with what we can contribute to the community.

We want to create opportunities for children and young people living with disabilities. I want a better understanding of the motivation behind the volunteerscommitment to the project and also a better understanding of the community I am working with.

Since May the volunteers have been in Nandi county and have been staying in Kenya for 4 months until they return home in September. My role involves supporting the volunteers in every step of their journey by leading and guiding them. I am also responsible for reaching out to the community to empower and educate the importance of children with disabilities attending school. In addition, we are also teaching life skills which are vital for the survival of life. We are educating communities about disability and how can they support disabled people in their communities.

Being a team leader and a filmmaker is very challenging as I am carrying out both roles simultaneously. I deal with the responsibility by bringing my camera with me all the time, when an opportunity presents itself, I pull the camera out and film. By the end of the volunteer programme, I hope to produce a short documentary talking about disabled children in Nandi and how VSO are continuing to help them. VSO’s vision is a world without poverty, bringing people together to address marginalisation and poverty. VSOs unique role in international development is to place committed volunteers into carefully selected organisations so their skills generate the greatest value.
Tell me about your work with ITV Signpost?

I worked with ITV Signpost for 3 years and left in 2018 to become an independent filmmaker. I worked for ITV in a variety of roles including as a director and have produced documentaries commissioned by BSL Zone. I have worked on programmes with CITV such as Mission Employable.

Being a deaf person, I had to visualise how to create documentaries that are suitable for both the deaf and hearing audiences and allowing access for both. I have a wealth of experience, and I am an expert in the area of filmmaking. I’ve learnt a lot over the years and have managed to climb the filmmaking ladder.

What does the disproportionate underrepresentation of women, minority and disabled people in both film and TV mean for the finished products?

Cultural diversity is very important in the film industry. I believe because I am Deaf I have faced a lot of challenges to represent myself as a Deaf filmmaker. I have been constantly labelled as unqualified and inexperienced even though I obtained a degree from Northern Film School (Leeds Beckett University). I have worked in the media industry for more than 5 years where I learnt a lot to prove that I am a true filmmaker.

What challenges have you faced as an independent filmmaker? And would you say it is more challenging as a producer being a Muslim woman or being Deaf?

This is difficult because I faced great difficulties being a Muslim woman and being Deaf. Society does not accept and does not like women working in the media. In my culture, women are ‘meant’ to take on roles that are deemed feminine such as a nurse, teacher or cleaner and a filmmaker does not conform to this ideology.

It was believed that I brought disgrace to the Muslim society because being a Muslim filmmaker attracts a lot of problems within such a society. It is deemed unacceptable, however, I did not give up and I will continue to prove that being a filmmaker does not mean that I make such films or scenes that go against my way of life. I have so much passion for filmmaking, and I will follow my chosen path to become a great female Muslim filmmaker.

Being Deaf it is very difficult to break into the film industry. People have doubted me because of my deafness, but they see my skills and scriptwriting. It has taken me a few years to gain the trust of the industry to prove that being deaf does not mean I’m uneducated, and I have the skills, passion and willingness to do whatever it takes. I attended Leeds Beckett University because this is my chosen career and what I wanted to do.

BAME creative creators are usually pigeonholed into representing parts of their identity while their white counterparts are afforded greater freedom to be creative outside of their social identity, how do you define the fine line between tokenism and diversity?

Unfortunately, some industries do not see the talent that Deaf people have. They see a Deaf person as an opportunity for them to be ‘diverse. Deaf people are given very basic roles such as assistant director, assistant camera person but not the opportunity as a director purely because of their deafness.

They are afraid that people with disabilities might affect their level of professionalism and production. It is very difficult for Deaf people to break the portrayed barriers as Deaf filmmakers with specific skills in areas such as editing, VFX, scriptwriting. Deaf people have a very rich culture, and people not see that their perspective is often different from a deaf person’s perspective.

What advice would you give to budding Muslim women who wish to go in the field of writing, filmmaking and producing?

Don’t let people’s doubt affect you, prove your worth with your material, your actions, hard work and dedication. At the end of the day, they will realise that you are something precious!

What are your future goals, would you like to set up your own production company for example?

I’m planning to pursue an MA in the North West and I am still on the lookout for the right course. I hope to do this in a few years. I am still travelling and filming short films for film festivals around the world and I am hoping that it will break down the stereotypes of being a Deaf filmmaker and a female Muslim filmmaker and slowly society will accept it.

However, I will continue working as a freelance filmmaker and continue to pursue my dream to work within different companies around the world!

Leave a Comment

What is 15 + 15 ?
Please leave these two fields as-is:
IMPORTANT! To be able to proceed, you need to solve the following simple math (so we know that you are a human) :-)

Over 120 people attended a landmark conference on the media reporting of Islam and Muslims. It was held jointly by The Muslim News and Society of Editors in London on September 15.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence event is to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to society. Over 850 people from diverse background, Muslim and non-Muslim, attended the gala dinner.

Latest Tweets