Pro Moviemaker Spring 2019


I KNOWTHIS MUCH: DEEYAH KHAN Documentary filmmaker Deeyah Khan learnt her craft on the back of discovering stories she felt compelled to tell. For her latest project, she put her own safety on the line to achieve a unique insight


T he technological developments in the filmmaking world over the past decade have made it more affordable and easier than ever to get involved. More than this, these advancements have also had the effect of opening up and democratising the whole sector. It’s meant that people who are not trained filmmakers, but strongly feel they have a story they need to tell, now have the opportunity to do exactly that. At the same time, there are a multitude of platforms opening that are prepared to showcase such work. This was the background that allowed Norwegian British documentary film director, human rights activist and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, Deeyah Khan, to make her first production, Banaz: A Love Story , in 2012. Documenting the so-called honour killing of a British Kurdish woman, the filmwent on to win an Emmy, a Peabody Award and a

nomination from the Royal Television Society, despite Khan having no previous filmmaking experience. White Right: Meeting the Enemy, the latest film by her production company, Fuuse, won a prestigious Rory Peck Award and saw Khan head to America in the wake of the Trump victory to meet people who openly advocate race hate. The filming included her attending the fateful neo-Nazi Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in August 2017, which saw the death of a counter-protester. Throughout filming, Khan placed herself in a series of highly vulnerable positions as she sought to understand the thought processes of those who embrace far-right extremism and see her as the ‘enemy’. We met in the aftermath of her Rory Peck award to talk more about her work and how she’s used the medium to further her human rights campaigns.

IMAGES As a beginner filmmaker, Khan used the Sony FS5 and FS7, because they are lightweight and intuitive to use

I’m not a journalist, I’m an activist Films are my passion and my obsession. I’d reached a point in my life where I’d experienced a lot of hate and even death threats. I felt I had to decide to live my life and no longer be afraid. At that time, I came across the story of Banaz Mahmod. She was a young British Kurdish woman who was murdered by her family in a so-called honour killing after she fell in love with someone they didn’t approve of. It was a difficult story to tell and I had to spend years gaining the trust and cooperation of the police officers involved, but I felt I had to do it. I’d never operated a camera before, but I bought myself a Sony and a copy of Final Cut Pro and assembled a team that would help me. I explained to them at the time I couldn’t pay them, but they were happy to be involved anyway. My second filmwas Jihad: A Story of the Others . It was about why some young western Muslims embrace violent extremism and go abroad to fight wars, andwhy, in some cases, they come to reject it. I was interested inwhat theirmotivation was. What would cause a 17-year-old to feel they needed to become a martyr to achieve redemption? Of course, there are psychological issues involved – the film looked at how these movements fulfil certain needs for these guys. What makes an individual do something radical?

“I’d experienced hate and even death threats. I felt I had to live my life and no longer be afraid”



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