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Meet Urwa Zubair, the Pakistani American Filmmaker Bridging Cultural Gaps and Sharing Diverse Stories

Meet Urwa Zubair, the Pakistani American Filmmaker Bridging Cultural Gaps and Sharing Diverse Stories

  • Drawing inspiration from successful examples like “Rami” and “The Big Sick,” Urwa highlights the importance of owning cultural identity and striving for representation.

In the vast landscape of South Asian artists making their mark in the United States, Urwa Zubair stands out as a remarkable filmmaker and storyteller. Her journey from Pakistan to the U.S. has been driven by a desire to expand her horizons, challenge her own thinking, and embrace the artistic freedom and creativity that Hollywood offers. With a strong focus on representation, inclusion, and diversity, Urwa’s work as a South Asian female filmmaker brings a fresh perspective to the industry. Her upcoming film, “Bani,” delves into the theme of empowerment and aims to bridge the gaps between genders and generations.

In the last three years, Urwa has produced 50 commercials. Her clientele includes United Airlines, Chase, Target, State Farm, Warner Bro, Paramount, and Makers Mark & Haleon brands such as Flonase, Voltaren, and Excedrin. She has worked with artists such as John Leguizamo, Icona Pop, Kellee Edwards, and Elnaaz Norouzi and has a few in the works with A-list celebrities.

Urwa Zubair at work (photo, courtesy Urwa Zubair). Top photo by Margos Margossian.

For Urwa, the decision to pursue a career in filmmaking was fueled by her love for cinema and storytelling. As a naturally curious person, she found solace in the ability of films to transport audiences to different worlds and experiences. Growing up, Urwa developed a deep appreciation for the power of movies to connect people, bridging cultural gaps and sharing diverse stories. Her passion for storytelling and desire to learn from others’ experiences laid the foundation for her journey as a filmmaker.

Urwa’s initial exposure to the U.S. as a young child opened her eyes to the vastness of the world beyond her own immediate surroundings. The experience sparked a curiosity and a realization of the limitations she faced in her thinking and knowledge. When the opportunity to pursue a Master’s degree in the U.S. presented itself, Urwa seized it with the motivation to not only further her education but also immerse herself in the land of creativity, freedom, and artistry.

One of the significant differences Urwa observes between Hollywood and the Pakistani film industry is the work ethic. While the Pakistani industry may have long shooting hours and issues with payment delays or underpayment, Hollywood has established unions and laws in place to ensure fair treatment of crew members. Clear job descriptions and values provide a structured framework for productions, with key positions like Assistant Directors (ADs) holding significant responsibility in running the show. Moreover, Hollywood embraces diverse target markets, allowing for the creation of artistic indie films that resonate with specific audiences. This emphasis on personal expression and authenticity sets the U.S. industry apart.

When asked about Hollywood’s readiness for South Asian stories, Urwa redirects the focus to self-empowerment. She encourages artists to embrace their unique voices and tell their own stories, rather than waiting for external validation. Drawing inspiration from successful examples like “Rami” and “The Big Sick,” Urwa highlights the importance of owning cultural identity and striving for representation. It is through the collective efforts of South Asian artists that Hollywood will come to recognize the value and relevance of their narratives.

Urwa’s journey as a South Asian female filmmaker in the U.S. is marked by her commitment to representation, inclusion, and diversity. Her migration to the U.S. provided her with opportunities to broaden her perspectives and embrace the artistic freedom found in Hollywood. Through her work, she aims to challenge societal norms and promote understanding among different genders and generations.

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Urwa’s feature in development, “Bani,” transcends the concept of female empowerment and aims to foster understanding among all genders and generations. By exploring the underlying reasons for societal issues and beliefs, the film seeks to bridge divides and promote unity.

Urwa continues to push boundaries and explore themes that resonate with audiences worldwide. As she navigates the challenges faced by women in the industry, Urwa remains determined to carve out her space and contribute to the evolving landscape of cinema. Her dedication and passion serve as an inspiration for aspiring filmmakers, reminding them of the transformative power of storytelling and the importance of amplifying diverse voices.

Uzair Ahmed is a content strategist with a passion for captivating storytelling in the digital realm. With a wealth of experience in the IT industry, Uzair has successfully crafted compelling content that blends technical expertise with creative finesse by compelling content across various platforms, from blogs to white papers, leveraging technical SEO writing and copywriting.

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The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of American Kahani.
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