Extraordinary stories from the most interesting artists, writers, athletes, and thinkers on the kaleidoscope of Muslim experience.

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Alia Syed

Season 4

EPISODE 6 - Alia Syed

On this episode of This Being Human, AR chats with British experimental filmmaker, Alia Syed. Born in Swansea to a Welsh mother and Indian father, Alia’s work explores themes of culture, diaspora, and personal identity, inviting viewers to contemplate the complexities of the human experience. Her films have been shown at prestigious institutions worldwide, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Tate Modern in London, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Abdul-Rehman Malik (VO): Welcome to This Being Human, I’m your host Abdul Rehman Malik. On this podcast, I talk to extraordinary people from all over the world, whose life, ideas, and art are shaped by Muslim culture. 


Alia Syed: Nuance is what makes things particular. I suppose that may be what experimental film is. I don't know what experimental film is. I just make films. [laughs] 


Abdul-Rehman Malik (VO): Alia Syed is an experimental, multi-hyphenate British filmmaker whose work has been featured and celebrated in galleries around the world. She uses her art to meditate on issues of subjectivity and narrative, identity and memory, creating mesmerizing visual experiences that challenge and provoke viewers. I’ve known Alia for a few years. She is a consummate creative. Excited by the world around her. Bouncing from one idea to the next. Her day-to-day lived experiences are a manna for her art. Watching Alia’s films is like entering a parallel universe. Her films have a dreamlike quality to them. Nostalgia and melancholy bubble up to the surface. Landscapes and streetscapes convey more than place, they fill you with emotion. I have to be honest, though: her work isn’t easy. In fact it requires the viewer to lean in, pay attention, and be prepared to do some heavy lifting. Alia’s work is unique because her perspective is unique. She had an eminently fascinating childhood, growing up between cultures in Swansea, Wales with a Welsh mother and a father who had roots in Hyderabad, India. The blending of cultures is still a major theme in her work—most recently, she’s been interviewing South Asian bus drivers in Scotland to preserve their experiences of migration and racism as an oral history on film. I was lucky enough to connect with Alia just after her 60th birthday. 


Abdul-Rehman Malik: We take sort of, you know, existing at the fault lines and the intersection of identities and having a way to talk about that and to explore that for granted. Basically, Alia, you were from the future. 

Alia Syed: Yeah, I'm from the future. [laughs] And the future is unmade. 

Abdul-Rehman Malik: What, how do you look back on that, on that, that experience now that you've turned 60 and there's international galleries doing retrospectives of your work and major museums and film institutes are acquiring your work. How do you view your career at this moment in your life? 

Alia Syed: When I make my work, it's almost like I'm making. I'm worldbuilding. And I'm building knowledge systems. I'm learning and I'm thinking and I'm dreaming and I think you always have to have that idea that also the possibility of failure. I think that when I'm making work, it's the work that matters. It's not some external projection. These are the relationships that I'm building up through my work. These are the most important things to me. So I don't know that I think about my career in those terms, although I'm very glad that I'm 60. I've been working on oral histories in Glasgow since, well, essentially since my father passed away. And it feels like it's all actually now coming to a point where there's going to be some clarity about what I'm doing. So I think that's good, because often you get muddled up in the research and in everything else, and you don't really know how to output it. I think I'm always thinking about the questions that the work posed to me, and how can I answer them in the best way possible? I don't know if that makes sense. 

Abdul-Rehman Malik: It absolutely makes sense. It feels like when you work on a project or a film, it's like a live conversation with yourself. You're actually using the process of making the film, as a way to work things out. And that feels really poignant. That your craft is an extension of what's going on in your heart, mind, and soul. 

Alia Syed: Yes, exactly. That's exactly it. That is what experimental film is for me. It's a form of ethics, in a way. 

Abdul-Rehman Malik: Oh, unpack that for me. How would you explain that? 

Alia Syed: So ethics in the way that you're representing stories and how do you represent those stories and how do you represent the fact that actually things change? There's fluidity built into the representation of what it is that I'm doing. Like, I've been interviewing lots of these old gentleman. It's also about ego. So like I've been asking people. It started off with first generation Asian men who used to work on the buses in Glasgow, about how they came to this country and what their experiences were on the buses and things like that. And some people would talk quite clearly about racism, and other people would not want to talk about racism, in those particular ways. So they would say that people were rude or people were nasty or things like that, so they wouldn't talk about racism because of when they came, the word hadn't entered their vocabulary in that way, so it was just that people were being horrible. So I suppose it's when you're a child and you look back on your own experiences, you don't necessarily think that it was racism. It was just, oh, they were being horrible. And then in later life, you understand that experience as actually, as being a moment of racism. It's not that you experience it in the first instance as something that's so clear, but also, then there's also a way of how communities then start to fight back. So then experiences become articulated in a much more concrete way. 

Abdul-Rehman Malik: Alia, you just said something really, really intriguing. You talked about, as you're interviewing these men in Glasgow about their experiences with racism and marginalization. You made a reference there to your own experiences, right? Growing up, your experiences of racism and exclusion and prejudice. And I want to take you back to that. Tell us about what it was like growing up in a way, someone sitting between Pakistan and Great Britain at a time when, you know, the National Front and other organizations really held sway in many of Britain's cities. Did that experience sort of drive you to the work that you eventually have done? 

Alia Syed: Yeah, I think it has essentially driven me to the work that I've done in a way that if you're continually adapting, and I think that for me, that might have been more pronounced because of the fact that I'm of mixed heritage. But it was interesting the other day because I was invited to be on a panel in response to this Channel 4 documentary called Defiance that specifically looks at the South Asian resistance to the far right. And then I suddenly realized that actually, my close family left because of that moment, that racism that was so prevalent and so dominant and orchestrated. And they went to America. When you asked me, I suppose I just feel that there was an isolation, essentially. A loneliness. Because we grew up on the outskirts, in a suburban place. And there weren't very many other Asian kids. Well, in fact, there was only one family. And I suppose you just clinged to things that you could identify with. So, like I remember Kunta Kinte was on the television, and me and my dad used to watch Kunta Kinte. And then I also remember that basically, I was called Kizzy at school. So one of the little girls in Kunta Kinte was Kizzy. So that was one of the questions in the Defiance thing, was this notion of Blackness and a political Blackness. And how that's shifted through the generations and I suppose I feel a very strong sense of political Blackness, I suppose, because there wasn't any Asian programs on television, apart from Nai Zindagi Naya Jeevan, which was on on Sunday morning that we used to watch as a family. 

Abdul-Rehman Malik: And was that an Urdu language program?

Alia Syed: Yeah. It was an Urdu language program. It was a program that was specifically designed by the BBC in relation to showing something that was of cultural significance to the Asian community. And some newsreels that would be about Pakistan, India, or Bangladesh. And then there was a section about English language, and then there would be the songs or the movie excerpts, the things about what films had come out or what songs had come out. And there would always, always be a band, a singer at the end. We would sit down at the television on the floor, and we'd be watching the television with my dad. [laughs] 

Abdul-Rehman Malik: Alia, is this the point at which you begin to get a sense in yourself that film is going to be your future? Like, when's the point where you realize that, yeah, it's film that I want to do? This is the medium that I want to use for my art. 

Alia Syed: Um, I never thought that I was going to be a filmmaker. I wanted to be an astrophysicist at one point. Another point. Yeah. I really loved Jacques Cousteau. You know, the guy who went underwater? 

Abdul-Rehman Malik: Yes, absolutely. 

Alia Syed: And then I wanted to go to art school, I was a very good draftsperson. I was a very good painter. You know, when I was in the art department at Bearsden Academy. I had some fantastic teachers and I suppose that's where I felt I could be myself. So then I applied to art school, and then I went to University of East London and, at University of East London, that's where I discovered film. And again, it wasn't necessarily that I wanted to become a filmmaker. Because my dad was a physicist, I had this, like, relationship with mechanics, with the car or with the radio. And I remember my dad taught me how to fix a radio. And then, in the college we would go to the sculpture department, the painting department, and the film department. And then we had. So I had our introduction to film, and they showed us these cameras. And I just thought that they were very, very beautiful. And I just thought, actually, I could learn how to use this camera. I just became really excited by the mechanics of the camera. And I suppose that's why I sort of became interested in film, how it just became so compelling to me, because I just found that I could do so many of the things that I had done naturally, like I'd always written stories, I'd written poetry, I played the flute. So all this notion of a soundscape, of images, and all of these things that I could suddenly put together. And I suppose that's why I say that notion of world making. It's like you then become involved in this other world that you've constructed through your work. It's not that I then thought, I'm going to be a filmmaker. It's just that that was the only thing that was interesting to me, and I just wanted to continually return to it. 


Abdul-Rehman Malik: I have a small favour to ask you. If you enjoy this show, there’s a really quick thing you can do to help us make it even better. Just take five minutes to fill out a short survey. This is the Aga Khan museum’s first-ever podcast and a little bit of feedback will help us measure our impact and reach more people with extraordinary stories from some of the most interesting artists, thinkers, and leaders on the kaleidoscope of Muslim experience. To participate, go to agakhanmuseum.org/tbhsurvey. That’s agakhanmusic.org/tbhsurvey.  The link is also in the show notes. Thanks for listening to This Being Human. Now, back to the interview.


Abdul-Rehman Malik: So your work addresses these themes of identity and diaspora, not only who you are and where you come from, but the places that you came from and how they feed and influence, you know, who you become. And I'm thinking about your film Points of Departure, which I watched recently and was deeply moved by. 


Abdul-Rehman Malik: You take archival footage and sound from the BBC archive in Scotland, and you weave through a kind of a visual story. And you're at the very heart of it. You're commenting on it. You're observing things about your home, the world that you grew up in. And then at the heart of the film is this conversation with your dad. And it's such a fascinating conversation because your father is reciting a ghazal…


Alia’s Dad: [speaking Urdu] When it blooms, the springtime comes, then I think about you…

Abdul-Rehman Malik: And he's reading it in Urdu, and then he's trying to translate it for you and you're sort of, I could almost hear you leaning in to him and saying, okay, I want to know what the next part means! Let's explain that. And he's finding it hard. He's finding it challenging to find the right words. 


    Alia’s Dad: It’s not written properly. Yes. because…

    Alia: Okay.

    Alia’s Dad: Well, songwise. Well it’s translated, it is written…

    Alia (VO): My father can’t remember. The song is incomplete.

Abdul-Rehman Malik: And there's a moment of disconnect where you're like, is this untranslatable? And he's like, no, it's written in an unusual way that's different from the way that the song is sung. 


    Alia’s Dad: …right here.

    Alia: Okay, so there isn’t a correspondence. Yeah. 

Alia’s Dad: Like, here it says [speaking Urdu]. When he sings, it says [speaking Urdu]...

Abdul-Rehman Malik: You guys are trying to figure out this ghazal, this poem, and by the end of it, he kind of does it, right? He gets through it because he gets caught up in the meaning of it. Tell me about that conversation with your dad and, and also the ways in which you navigate the complexities of cultural identity. 

Alia Syed: Yeah. So, I mean, I've worked with my dad on a few of my films, actually. The first time was with Fatima's Letter. And I had written a story in English that was then translated by my father and my cousins into Urdu. And then again with Eating Grass, where I wrote five different stories that are related to the different times of prayer. So again, I wanted that to be in Urdu. And then in all those times, it was a very polished translation. Although I question notions of translation. You know, everyone had worked out the translations, so it came clean, so to speak. It became. There wasn't the notion of the work of translation. What is the work of translation? When I was making Points of Departure, I mean, my father wasn't well, so his memory was not as good. So I was aware of that, but I was very sure in my head that I didn't want to have this…because I could have given the ghazal to my father prior to the recording, and he would have translated it. He would have worked out the best way to translate it. He would have thought about particular words, and he would have found the answer, but that would have taken him a time, as it takes anybody time to to translate something. I'm wanting to get it. And I'm wanting him to get it so that he can then translate it for me and I'm going to understand it. And so there's that sort of pressure for me to comprehend it. But it is also that pressure for him to translate something that he comprehends innately because he knows it. But he can't find the right word for me. And that's why that's what was really important in Points of Departure, was this notion of time, of searching for something, and then of the inability to articulate it. But then actually I think what's really nice about it in Points of Departure is that he tries to translate it and he's not happy with the translation. And so we go on to the next verse and we go on to the next verse, but then he comes back to it and then he says, oh, now I understand what it is. It's not that my heart beats when I cry. It's my, I am crying when my heart beats. 

Abdul-Rehman Malik: Right. It’s—

Alia Syed: It's something that it's like with my breath I am crying. My whole being is crying. It's not that I remember you and I cry. It's that notion of that deep sorrow. And he, it takes him a while to sort of do that. And I, you know, I suppose a younger me might have thought, okay, I want my father to look like he can do this easily. You know, he's a intelligent man. He's an articulate man. You know, he's educated. So there's this idea that he should be able to stand upright and just say it as it is, you know, and that he is in control of this. And actually, I didn't want that aspect because it was about that the frailty and the fragility of that and also the fragility of relationships. You know, that have this, these like different power dynamics, these different needs, these different desires. And how they then, you know, we find our way through it. And I suppose that was what I wanted to come through in Points of Departure. So I didn't take those parts out. That was actually the subject of the film.


Abdul-Rehman Malik (VO): In watching the film, I was struck by the beauty of that choice—to leave in those tense moments where Alia's facility with Urdu doesn't quite line up with her dad’s. And by the end of the film, it hardly matters. The words themselves are emotive because he's so immersed in them. His voice is all she needs. All of this is made particularly moving by the fact that Alia's father passed away before Points of Departure was ever screened in public. I asked Alia why she chooses to do this kind of work.


Alia Syed: You're touched by sound and in a way that you're not touched by image. You are physically touched by sound because of the vibrations of sound through the air. I had found this one clip in the archive that was, of a funeral cortege walking through the Dumbarton Road in Glasgow. I really loved this clip for many different reasons. Not one of which was the whole funeral cortege was, headed by these two men of color, someone of African descent and someone of Asian descent. And then the whole cortege was walking down and it's an amazing shot. But I had a rule in Points of Departure that I wasn't going to have any human presence in the film. And then I had an invitation to make something else, a three minute film. And I thought, oh, I'm going to use this shot. And then I started to interview all these old gentleman who used to work on the buses and the thing that drove me was how they spoke. Because the way they spoke, The rhythm, the cadence, speaking Scots with an Indian accent, and just the construction of a sentence, that way of speaking is almost gone now. And I just really wanted to capture the sound of their voices and the way that they spoke. And I just realized that that way of speaking was going to disappear. So it was like a language that was going to disappear. And I just wanted to record as many of these voices as possible. So that's what compelled me. So beauty, I suppose, in a way, but I'm not really interested in beauty as in "beauty!" And then as I interviewed these people, obviously, I became fascinated by the stories. And then also fascinated about how I fitted into those stories or the gap between their experiences and my father's experience, because, of course, you know, the diaspora is not one thing. It's many things. We come from many different places. There's different experiences of class and education, even the experience of how you negotiate particular immigration laws. One person's story was very much to do with the fact that his whole life had changed because in, you know, in Britain there was this panic because all of these East Asians were coming and that's when Margaret Thatcher makes her speech about being swamped by Asians and all of a sudden you have this very spurious and vindictive laws that come in about in ‘71 and ‘72 about who's allowed to come. As a child, you might not necessarily understand that. And then, when you hear people's stories, it just became so relevant to this particular moment where immigration is such a topic, but also, then you have a better understanding of the difficulties of people of a particular generation. 


Abdul-Rehman Malik: Alia, what do you want your audiences to walk away with? Not only in Points of Departure, or in the film that you're looking at now, but is there an overriding, is there something overriding that you want your audiences to take away from your work? 

Alia Syed: I suppose that's why I'm an experimental filmmaker, because it's not this idea of consuming the work, but it's about the experience of the work. So for me, I suppose, it would be, maybe a question that you might have, a question to your mum. Your mother or your father. Or it might be something that you reevaluate some of your own ideas or some of your own experiences or. I don't want people to take stuff away. I want people just to think more? [laughs] I suppose just that they reflect on their own experience and on their own life in relation to what they've just seen. It's not that my films are going to give them something or tell them something that they…I suppose for me it's a question. It's that they go away with a question. Not an answer. 

Abdul-Rehman Malik: How would you characterize the difference, then, between experimental film and narrative film? And what does that say about your approach to storytelling? 

Alia Syed: Well, I liked it when you said that we went back to our beginnings in Points of Departure, and I suppose my beginnings of being entering into stories and being told stories. It was always at bedtime. So my father would tell me stories and. The stories would be. There was probably about 5 or 6 stories that he told me, but that he always told them to me, you know, he'd reiterate them and reiterate them. And it didn't matter that I'd heard them before. Because the way that the story was told to me was always slightly different, because it was an oral story. You know, he was making the story up as we went along, and the story would change according to what happened that day, or it would change according to how he felt or how I felt or what was going on, so that although it was the same story, it shifted. So that thing about oral history and storytelling is that they're, they shift, they're fluid. And they don't necessarily have such a concrete structure. So I'm really interested in storytelling. I love stories, but I suppose they're much more malleable than the story or the plot of, of, I don't know. I can't think of a film now, but  a plot of, like, a Terminator or something, you know? So it's not that kind of a story. Experimental filmmaking, I suppose it's like. Well, it gives you the chance. You find the form while making the work. The form is not something that is pre-given. So the subject sort of that you enter into then points you in the direction of how you should make the work. So it's not like, I am going to make this work and it's going to look like this. It's like, when you ask the question and you gather the information, that information and those people will tell you what to do. I mean, I could tell you, like, an experimental theory of what experimental films are, but that's not what my films are. [laughs]

Abdul-Rehman Malik: Because it's a different kind of storytelling, isn't it, Alia? 

Alia Syed: Yeah.

Abdul-Rehman Malik: In a way, you really have to trust the audience. You have to trust us as we're coming into your work to go with you in the way that you're going to tell us, because your films aren't going to follow, I don't even know how to say it, a traditional or a conventional story arc. You're going to take us forwards and backwards, and you're going to let us sit in places that we might not otherwise sit as viewers in any other film environment. And I guess there's this alchemy between you and audience, right, as you offer this to us. Something is happening to us. And I imagine, as you said, something is happening to you. Can you think of that time when you arrived at a moment of putting your work together where it was just really hard? 

Alia Syed: It's always very hard. Because you're looking for the answer while you're making it. And I suppose that goes back to this question of ethics. It's like. You know, the context of where people's stories sit. So although the story, and somebody's experience will be very true and very poignant to them. Where it sits in a bigger context in the world, in relation to history and class and politics, actually, you can then understand it differently. So in relation to the stories that I'm collecting in Glasgow, for instance. You know, one person says to me, oh, we had a fantastic time on the buses. It was always very polite. And there was no racism. No, everyone was very polite. And then he goes on and tells me, “oh, well, one day there was these two people who came into the bus and they were drunk, and they went up to the top of the bus and they were talking, and they were calling me all these names and and I was very cross and..” and basically they stayed for the whole journey of the bus around Glasgow because basically they’d fallen asleep and they've been abusing Mr. Assad all along and the conductor. And so at the end of the journey, they've fallen asleep and he takes them to get a wash, so he says to Jean and he goes, “Jean. But she was taller than me, Irish. I says to Jean, Jean, open all the windows. I'm going to sort this out. You go off, open all the windows,” and he drives the bus with all the windows open. And so all the water from washing the bus comes in and soaks the people in the bus! [laughter] And it's just like. And then they come out and he goes, “oh, they were really very cross!” And then the next day the, the, the boss calls him and he says, “Mr. Assad, what happened?” He goes, “well, I was just really cross.” And then the boss says, “well, I'm afraid I'm going to have to. You're not going to be able to come in to work tomorrow. I'm going to have to dock your pay for a day,” and and Mr. Assad says, “okay, okay, okay.” And then he says, at the end of the conversation, he goes, “but don't worry, Mr. Assad, I'll give you an extra day in a week or two.” So it's fine. So is this this like camaraderie. You know, there was racism in the union. Everything that people say is true. But there are always these moments of camaraderie, of support. That's what's really interesting is how do I balance all of these stories? Because I know the other person who I interviewed talks very eloquently about the racism that he experienced. So there's two opposite views!

Abdul-Rehman Malik: I wonder. You as an artist who's so deeply engaged in the social and the political issues and landscape of the places in which you work and the people who you work with. How do you feel as an artist about the artist's role in addressing, you know, these social fractures? 

Alia Syed: Yeah, I mean, I just think, for me, these are the things that I'm driven by. I come from quite a political background. My mom's family were very, you know, they were all like, lay preachers. They went up and down the country preaching socialism through the Bible. And they were called tramp preachers. So, you know, I come from these like, backgrounds that are quite politically engaged. And my thing is, I'm trying to understand how these forces have made me who I am. It's not for me to say what an artist's role is or is not. Each artist has to choose their own way and their own route. I think we all pick our own, our own subject matter, our own way into our work. For me personally, it's always the form and the content together. It's not the content just or the form, but it's how the content informs the form of the piece and how the form informs the content. How, you know, meaning is constructed. Form constructs meaning. The way that you say something imparts a particular meaning. So that's what I'm interested in. In nuance, I suppose, because I suppose nuance is what makes things particular. I suppose that may be what experimental film is. I don't know what experimental film is. I just make films. [laughter]

Abdul-Rehman Malik: Before we move to, sort of, wrap up, I've met your daughter, and in fact, I had the privilege last year of going with you and your cousin to watch your daughter perform at a really cool theater space in south London. I was really taken with not only her confidence, she was performing this song and, and before she'd gone up on stage, she'd been telling us about how she was really reengaging with the folk tradition of your family's past and that folk music was something that was emerging. And she's also an actress. And I looked over at you, Alia, while your daughter was performing. And you had this beautiful. I mean, it was the look of love, but it was something else. It was, just you had this just tender, deep appreciation for what this person was trying to do. And I dare I say I could see the pride on your face. I could see how proud you were. 

Alia Syed: I am. I'm very proud of her. She's far more sensible than I ever was. [laughs] And she, you know, she's confident and I suppose that was the point, when I had Humera, I sort of thought, oh, what am I going to do now? And then I thought, well, the thing that I can do best is make films. So when Humera was really little, I was making Eating Grass. And I remember thinking, okay. And Humera would be sitting on my lap while I was editing my film. I suppose that was the moment when I actually thought, I have to take this really seriously now for my daughter, because this is what I can do best. So it's a strange thing because I suppose as a mother, I was thinking, well, obviously, you know, how am I going to look after my child? But how I could look after my child best was basically by doing the thing that I could do best and then look after her.

Abdul-Rehman Malik: What do you hope for her as a young artist? You know, very South Asian and immersed in what it means to be from an Indian and Pakistani background, very aware of her Muslimness, also aware of the fact that she is connected in history and in family to these British Isles in a particular way. Like what is your hope for her as an artist in the world? 

Alia Syed: I hope that she has experiences where she can explore her craft. I just hope that she’s able to articulate the complexity of her being on stage, in a way that is...I don't like this word "empowering" because I think, you know, as human beings, we have moments of empowerment and moments of doubt and fragility. And I suppose, just to experience and be able to articulate the whole gamut of what it is to be human. Oh gosh, that's what your thing's called! Hahaha!

Abdul-Rehman Malik: That was perfect, Alia! That was the perfect plug.

Alia Syed: [laughs] That wasn’t even—that’s very embarrassing. Yeah. The whole complexity of what it is to be human on stage. 


Abdul-Rehman Malik: Alia, tell me about a joy or a meanness that came to you recently as an unexpected visitor. 

Alia Syed: I went on the march for Palestine about 3 or 4 weeks ago. I just arrived and I went to the central point and I got there a bit early and I was looking around thinking. Because I usually bump into someone. And then I bumped into a friend of mine called Alisa LaBeau, who's a Jewish academic film writer. And, she was with her partner. And they said, oh, well, why don't you just come with us? We're going to go and hang out on the Jewish brigade. And went, I hope you don't mind coming with us. I went, no, no. That's fine. I'm quite happy to come with you. I'm quite happy to be Jewish for the day. [laughs] So, I went on the march with them. So we found where the Jewish contingency was going to come, and they were going to meet the march from a side road on the main drag. So we were waiting for the main march to come. I was talking to her friends and it was just very moving and it was a pure joy. And then, the main march met the Jewish contingency, and everyone was just going "Wooo!" and clapping and applauding and whistling. And there was a huge surge of energy, and it was just like, oh. It was so beautiful. 

Abdul-Rehman Malik: Alia, thank you for being on This Being Human

Alia Syed: Thank you. 

Abdul-Rehman Malik (VO): To learn more about Alia’s work, you can visit aliasyed.co.uk. This Being Human is presented by the Aga Khan Museum. Through the arts, the Aga Khan Museum sparks wonder, curiosity, and understanding of Muslim cultures and their connection with other cultures. This Being Human is produced by Antica Productions in partnership with TVO. Our senior producer is Imran Ali Malik. Our associate producer is Emily Morantz. Our executive producers are Laura Regehr and Stuart Coxe. Mixing and sound design by Phil Wilson. Our associate audio editor is Cameron McIver. Original music by Boombox Sound. Shaghayegh Tajvidi is TVO’s Managing Editor of Digital Video and Podcasts. Laurie Few is the executive for digital at TVO.

In this episode, Alia talks about….

  • Her childhood, and growing up in Swansea, Wales. 
  • Her interest in oral histories. 
  • Discovering film, whilst studying at the University of East London. 
  • How ethics comes into play whilst creating a film. 
  • Her hopes for her daughter, a young artist. 


“Nuance is what makes things particular. I suppose that may be what experimental film is. I don't know what experimental film is. I just make films.”

“I think, you know, as human beings, we have moments of empowerment and moments of doubt and fragility. And I suppose, just to experience and be able to articulate the whole gamut of what it is to be human.” 

I suppose that's why I'm an experimental filmmaker, because it's not this idea of consuming the work, but it's about the experience of the work.”


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