Changing The World, One Film at a Time

Excerpt of interview with Kayf and Hodan, by Joanne Pilgrim for Women Across Frontiers Magazine

At the Hamptons International Film Festival in East Hampton, N.Y., in mid-October, selected winning films from Plural + were shown to students from local middle and high schools as part of an educational outreach program, and several young female filmmakers spoke about their motivation and inspiration…

[Kayf Abdulqadir and Hodan Hujaleh are] two … festival participants [who] are working to combat stereotypes using the medium of YouTube channels. “There was nobody that looked like us,” says Kayf Abdulqadir, a Somali Muslim from Ottawa. With Hodan Hujaleh, also a Somali Muslim living in Canada, she has two YouTube channels that present short videos showing realistic aspects of their own lives – Specs and Veil Productions and The Cool Ciyaal, (or “the cool kids,” in Somali). “We’ve never seen ourselves in the media,” Hujaleh agrees.
Though neither professes to be more than her own unique self – they don’t seek to be representative of any group, avoiding the stereotyping they are working against — many Somali youth have responded to their videos, seeing themselves in the skits.
“The response was amazing,” celebrates Abdulquadir. Their video, “10 Types of Somali Girls,” went viral and earned them an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
Their winning entry in the U.N. contest, “3 Things You Should Know About My Hijab,” made with Sarah Champagne, uses humor to introduce viewers to the universal side of Abdulqadir, who wears a hijab.
“I think the stereotype that we get, with the hijab, is that we don’t have a sense of humor, a sense of personality,” she mentions during an interview. “We wanted to humanize the hijab, and Muslim females altogether. Because I feel like often they don’t think that we have wit, or charisma.”

“I know that it is a foreign thing. And also the media dictating what it means to have the hijab on can also make their perception kind of hazy. So I don’t blame them. But I love for people to ask me questions; it’s not offensive. A lot of people are hesitant because they think asking a question is too personal, but we try to encourage that. I feel like by putting ourselves out there people are a lot more comfortable.”
“You know, we’re all human at the end of the day,” Hujaleh assures. The two women, both 24, strive to be role models for other young people, female Somalis in particular, who are interested in media-making.
“If they have this safe zone where they see people who look like them doing what they’re doing, it makes them a lot more comfortable and willing to start it,” Abdulquadir says.
“We want to inspire them,” says Hujaleh. They hope soon to begin offering workshops in their community for Somali youth, particularly girls, to learn about media production.

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Photo Credit: Monica Schipper