Zara Afzal and her team are seeking crowdfunding to complete a polished rough cut of the film Hidden Heart, an exploration of the experiences of Muslim women who have relationships with men outside their own community. You can read more about the project here, and do consider sponsoring them as well. Here’s a link to the trailer.
Zara has kindly agreed to answer some further questions about Hidden Heart.
What made you decide to direct a film on this topic?
Intercultural relationships are on the rise within Muslims in the west, it’s just not talked about as there is a taboo around women marrying out. I wanted to make a film that showed the challenges that Western Muslim women face within themselves and in the cultural context of marrying out
What obstacles (if any) have you encountered?
There have been many obstacles that I have encountered in the last three years of making this film! It’s been a huge learning curve, I’ve learnt a lot about myself. I would say getting people to talk about it. There is a fear of embarrassing/upsetting the families, because things have worked out in the end so they may not want to revisit that period in their lives. Some women I’ve spoken to are still hiding their relationship and leading a double life so they definitely don’t want to talk about it on camera.
Have any responses surprised you?
I think the responses I have had so far have overall been positive, but I’m sure that will change once the film is completed!
The trailer emphasised objections from Muslim parents. Do non-Muslim parents ever have similar concerns when their children fall in love with Muslims?
Oh, definitely yes, it isn’t just exclusive to muslim parents. The women in the film talk about how their partners had to hide it from their parents as well, as there was opposition from their families too. The concerns were there on both sides of the families.
Although your focus has been on tense and difficult situations – are there any more positive stories (e.g. where Muslim parents accept their daughter’s choice.)
I have interviewed one lady who’s parents were completely fine with it, and he didn’t convert! In the film I felt it important to show the diversity of Muslim women, to show them in their different situations, some with partners who converted, some who didn’t. So it’s not always the extreme case.
What effect/impact do you hope your film will have?
I hope a positive one, I’m not out to make a particular group or faith look bad. Obviously there will be people who won’t like the film and will probably make them feel uncomfortable, but it is happening and they just have to accept it.
Have you received any support from Muslim organisation?
I have received support from the Muslim Christian Forum, British Muslims for Secular Democracy and an American organization called Muslim for Progressive values.