Maha Yousaf

Maha Yousaf is a Pakistani-American multidisciplinary artist with a B.A in Visual Studies, at Ringling College of Art and Design. She uses Film, Photography, Graphic Design, and Visual Development to explore themes of identity and empowerment in her work. These all derive from her experiences in Pakistan and the United States.

Your project has entered in our festival. What is your project about?  
The music video for 'Come Thru' by Abdullah Siddiqui and Maanu, follows a girl who is struggling mentally and emotionally as she deals with the struggles of following a career path that wasn't her passion. This is a sentiment that many south Asian students can relate to or can empathize with. We see her do a form of metamorphosis, as she takes the first step toward following her dream. The film while was the project; the crew was the reason they are part of Standards, the South Asian Dream. We held a Pakistani film crew, by working with local art schools in the area, and collaborated with them to create this project. They echo the story of the girl in the video, they fought to pursue their dreams, and now they are. This music video is an homage to them and the struggles they underwent, but also to the people who couldn't and didn't have the opportunity to- all because of the standards our culture and society held us to.

What are your ambitions with your project?  
I intend to bring awareness to the issues most students from a south asian background face- being pushed towards a career they are not passionate about. I intend to use this project as a means to start that conversation and to advocate for creatives in south asia.

Tell us something about your shooting? What pleasantly surprised you?  
Shooting in Pakistan was surprisingly alot easier than I thought- reaching out to the local students, and starting the look for crew, and then meeting so many talented, ambitious people. I thought it was amazing how many people reached out- so many who weren't even in a creative field, but just had a passion for the arts.

For what group of spectators is your film targeted?  
The main demographic were south asian students, but also just south asians or people from third world countries in general who grew up with the stigma around the arts.

Why should distributors buy your film?  
They should invest in this film, because this film as stated is the start of a bigger change i want to bring. I intend to work on this topic and move forward with a documentary focusing on this same topic with the research I did, and further educate people on why it's important to follow your passions and truly turn it into a profession.  

How would you specify your work? What characterizes your film?  
I would specify my work as an experimental education music video, it's emotionally driven with heart, and truly focuses on the creatives who worked on it.

Why did you decide to become a filmmaker?  
I used to be a med school student, and while my main goal in life is to help people, I couldn't see myself pursuing that through medicine. I want to create works that move people and give a call to action which impacts lives.

Who is your role model?  
My role models are Frida Kahlo, who despite her own struggles and barriers was able to create amazing works of art that are monumental; Shameen Chinoy who will be the first muslim, female film director of the star wars trilogy and Masood Ahmed, a director, producer, photographer, and my uncle- who since the beginning saw my passion for the arts and constantly supported me.

Which movies are your favorites? Why?  
3 idiots; a Bollywood movie which tackles a similar thread of topics that my film was on, but also the storyline is truly one i could rewatch and relate to at any point of my life.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty which has such beautiful cinematography, and an amazing storyline. In fact a lot of the scenes that were shot in this film inspired some of the shots in my film.

Everything everywhere all at once, which takes a very beautiful and strong message and showcases it in ways that are very entertaining for the audience.

Where do you look for inspiration for your films?  
While I create films, I am also an Illustrator, Designer, and Photographer, so I will find inspiration for shots and lighting through those means, and my skills I've gained as a creator in all my mediums.

Which topics interest you the most?
Education, Empowerment, Powerful Voices. I find my best work in any type of work I create is stronger the moment it has a human element to it- when there's powerful emotions to work with.

What do you consider your greatest achievement in your career?  
While I am still very early on in my career, I find that I am getting recognition for my work, from awards, to my degree. I graduated from one of the top art and design schools in the country and was highly recognized in my time there.

What do you consider most important about filming?  
The most important part of filming is the message you're portraying. What will the audience take away from your film.

Which film technique of shooting do you consider the best?  
I find long shots, with little to no cuts to be the best; the tension and emotion that can be echoed in those are in my opinion unbeatable.

How would you rate/What is your opinion about current filmmaking?  
I believe that current filmmaking is on the rise in terms of representation- the strongest works we see lately are ones that have a focus on being accurate and meaningful towards a specific demographic for example, everything everywhere all at once.

What can disappoint you in a movie?  
The lack of care to original materials; especially adaptations to books, there is a pre established fan-base that can be highly disappointed if you don't treat the material with care.

Who supports you in your film career?  
My family, friends, peers from the ringling community. I found that my support came within my inner circles, and evolved to connections and networks that supported all my projects and ambitions, because they truly believed in me and my ability.

WATCH TRAILER FOR Standards: The South Asian Dream