altmuslim interviewed Muslim comedian Azhar Usman about, among other things, his role as producer for “The Boundary”:
You’re now branching out a little bit from comedy into filmmaking, and there is a trailer on the Net for your film called “The Boundary”. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
At the moment, “The Boundary” is a short film, and our intent, inshallah, is to turn it into something larger – either a feature film or a TV series. It is a story about an Arab-American Muslim family that is returning from Canada back to the United States. They get stopped while driving across the border, and what ensues is a captivating family drama. It’s not a heavy-handed political film, although by nature it has political themes; rather it explores those themes through a very poetic family story.
The main driving force behind the film is a producer named Julius Onah, who is a friend of ours. My partner on this project is Matt Sumbuli, a friend whom I created a production company with called 9 Saints, named after the nine Sufi saints of Indonesia. It’s meant to create projects with themes that Muslims and other disenfranchised groups could find their own voices in. Julius himself is a Nigerian-born immigrant who isn’t Muslim, but is very familiar with Muslim culture and Islam, and is a phenomenally talented filmmaker. There’s another project I was involved with before called “Tinku’s World“, which is a sketch comedy that Julius had been involved with, so we had a good working relationship.
Julius came to us, knowing that we had started a production company, and pitched an early iteration of “The Boundary”. We, of course, loved it. Our belief has always been if we don’t tell our own stories in our own words, from our own perspective, then they won’t be told or other people will try to tell them. This has always been a problem – Hollywood whitewashing the stories of minority peoples. We took it on, raised the funds necessary to produce the short film, made it with the highest quality 35mm film and Dolby digital sound. The actors are all Hollywood actors – the lead is Alexander Siddig, who many people recognize from Syriana and 24 and Star Trek. Opposite him is Christopher Mann, who has been a regular on “The Wire” on HBO. The wife is played by Jacqueline Antamarian, who is also a former “Sopranos” actress.
It’s making the rounds on the festival circuit, and was selected as a finalist by the HBO Short Film Competition, which is pretty exciting because HBO is interested in licensing it to be shown in February. The response has been really positive, not only from viewers but by people in the industry. We’re hoping, inshallah, that it can open up doors to a larger feature project or a TV series that explores the same themes.
Read the full interview here.