The Shuttered Bug

When she was 12, she got her first camcorder and discovered a world waiting to be recorded. Soon, everyone in the family expected her to be the one taking pictures, recording their gatherings. She edited her first home film then too, and has even done music videos with her cousins.

For Maryam Mohamed, filming has been a passion for exactly half her life—she’s 24—so when she finished her BSc in Sociology with a minor in Psychology, she was thrilled to begin a double major in the Faculty of Humanities at The UWI; a BA in Film Studies and Film Production.

For her dedication and application to her studies—she sounds like a model student—she was given the bpTT Student Award at the just concluded Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival, a prize she is careful to point out is not for her short film, “If I could Fly,” but for her “studentship.”

“A group of students from UWI film programme was nominated for the award (based on our GPA) then we had to write an essay stating why they should select us to go to the International Rotterdam Film festival and how will this benefit us personally and professionally. The award is sponsored by bpTT and it’s an all-expense paid trip to Holland for the film festival,” she explains.

For Maryam, this award is thrilling, because while she loves the film world, she hardly has plans to enter it. She’s shy, she says, and just the thought of attending the award ceremony, or the film sessions where she had to talk about her work, terrified her.

But it’s clear the bug has bitten her bad, because when it was time to go, she went, and when it was time to talk, she talked, and now she says it was a “great experience.”

Yet curiously, she does not harbour any desire to make the film world her career—at least not in a big, full-fledged way.

Hijabs are her customary wear, and her father is an Imam. Is it because it might go against her religious beliefs?

“A lot of people think I can’t do a lot because of restrictions,” she says. “I believe I can work around it. There aren’t many Islamic films…”

She says she feels her own beliefs have shaped what she wants to do. She wants to do films that send a message to people because she believes moral standards have dropped and vices have risen.

She feels that her psychology and sociology training has brought an additional dimension to her script writing and perhaps this might bring some transformative, persuasive element to her film making.

In any case, she says she doesn’t want to leave Trinidad to “go to Hollywood,” for example. She grew up in Caroni Village with her parents, her three siblings, her grandmother, an aunt—a really extended family setting—and she feels strongly about these family ties.

“I believe in family and that kind of vibes,” she says, noting that on campus, for instance, she’s found that for students, friends mostly take precedence.

“My family are my friends,” she says with a big smile. And theirs is the world she wants to capture on film.

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