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?
"Standards: The South Asian Dream" is The music video for 'Come Thru' by Abdullah Siddiqui and Maanu, which 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.

Movie poster V1jpg

What are your ambitions with your project?
The Goal of this project is to start a conversation about how so many students feel this societal pressure to do something they may not truly want. I want to change that- this is part of a bigger goal to educate the community on more careers that aren't just STEM. I want to use this project to spearhead projects that truly advocate for the arts and change the notion that you cannot be successful in careers that are creative.

Tell us somethng about your shooting? What pleasantly surprised you?
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.

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 its important to follow your passions and truly turn it into profession.

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

Why did you decided to become a filmmaker?
I use to be a medschool student, and while my main goal in life is to help people, I couldnt 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; 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?
My favorite movies are;

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.

Everything everywhere all at once, which takes a very beautiful and strong message and showcases it in ways that is 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 lightings 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 theres 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 youre 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 towards original material (in the cases of adaptations), we see lately a high rise of adaptations, and while there are many changes that are for the better- there are some which feel like for no reason or without care to the original material.

Who supports you in your film career?
My family, friends, peers from the ringling community.

What are the reactions to your film? (opinion of spectators, film critics, friends and family)
David Houle, a futurist, and keynote speaker, and author of The Shift Age, spoke about how my film was very impactful- that it drove him to tears, and encouraged others around him to watch as well. He awarded me the gold award as he was the juror of best of ringling, and said 'this film will be looked back upon as the first film by an esteemed director and producer in the industry.'

I did private screenings for this film, and each time i had peers coming to me in tears, and how even though they were not south asian they related to the film.

My family was extremely supportive, and loved the film- every time they had the opportunity they wanted to watch the film and show it to their friends and family in private screenings.

Have you already visited any of the prestigious film festivals?
I have visited a few film festivals, but this year will be the first time I participated in any.

What are your future plans in filmmaking career?
While I am a graphic designer, I intend to work in film and constantly work on projects that are going to have a strong message to help make the world a better place. I want to help people and if my films do it- then that's what I plan to do.