Filmmakers in the Spotlight: Yusra Ali

Author: Khawar Mahmood

As Steve Jobs puts it: “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.” Same happened when I asked Yusra Ali, an aspiring architectural filmmaker, that how she came around this very complex yet interesting idea of amalgamating filmmaking with architecture.

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Yusra Ali is a student of Architecture in one of the leading public sector universities in the country. She has already made a couple of very effective short films on social issues prevailing in the country, such as national security issues and importance of female education. She belongs to the Hazara community which has been prone to ethnic violence in the country since long. According to her that is why she is very sensitive to social issues. This incredibly talented and ambitious young lady wants to work in the field in which no one has tried to step in before her in Pakistan.

Recently while on the set of a short documentary on her plans, I got an opportunity to catch up with her and to ask a few questions about her passion and challenges she fear to face in her career. She was quite optimistic about her field of work. Architecture and filmmaking are both forms of conceptualization and creativity, and combining both of these is an excellent initiative, which is now being widely practiced in the developed world, but is still an infant in developing countries such as Pakistan.

Yusra is currently doing her thesis on the topic of “Urban Poor”. She wants to present her work using a film on existing structures, and wants to recommend changes in them accordingly. According to her, the idea of filming her projects came to her mind when she felt that she could express her observations more effectively using the medium of film. Describing the importance of film, she said, “Filmmaking unites all media, you can combine visual, audio, and illustrations in the same presentation, and that is more effective than using the outdated conventional methods used in architectural practices.” She says that using film, one can get his or her viewers to see what they are seeing in something, and in doing so it becomes more communicative and attractive

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However, the biggest challenge for any innovator is to gain acceptability in the system. Same goes for Yusra. She says that the biggest challenge for her is to create acceptability of her work among her peers, her teachers and the jury of her thesis. Also there is very little, or no work in this field to be used as a reference so that is another major challenge that Yusra is facing  but her resolve to coin her work is so strong that she does not consider these issues as hurdles, as was evident by her bright eyes and confident smile throughout the interview.

Talking about the scope of this practice she said that although this field is new, it is very fertile because in Pakistan very few places are properly documented architecturally, particularly our heritage sites, so turning this into a profession is not a bad option. While talking about filmmaking, she said that she found this medium as the most effective medium of expression, and so young girls should come forward to express themselves and about their issues through this medium. She commended the work of Women Through Film and was very excited about the Women International Film Festival; she said that she will submit a film for our festival. Yay!