The Tiger Hunter: Interview with Filmmaker Lena Khan

Let’s face it: there has been many a cringeworthy attempt at capturing the funny side of being a Muslim in the West. Apart from the brilliant 2010 film Four Lions, I always struggle to think of Muslim-themed comedies that actually make me smile. I was pleased to hear about Lena Khan’s project – The  Tiger Hunter – which tells the familiar tale of a young Muslim man moving to 1970s Chicago to achieve his dreams. I interviewed the brilliant and talented Ms. Khan about her project, representations of Muslims, and being a Muslim woman in Hollywood:

Sara Yasin: Why do you think making a film like this is important in this day and age — what do you think have been the gaps in how Muslims are represented in the media?

Lena Khan: Films like this are important because they show Muslims as they are, part and parcel of the world and communities in which we live. We are each unique individuals, and we each have our own stories to tell. And, we don’t all walk around praying at every occasion, or reciting Arabic every two seconds.

While there are many noteworthy exceptions that simply are not well known among the public, there is some truth in the idea that there are two groups of visual entertainment about Muslims: those that depict us as the “bad guy,” and those that go too far in making us unrealistic depictions to try to make people feel bad for us.

The former has deep and negative consequences, but the latter simply doesn’t work. In our film, we have a positive, but subtle, depiction of a Muslim as the lead character. The film is about his quest and vulnerabilities, not his faith. And that is what I think is important, and the best step toward filling that dangerous gap in how we are represented in the media. Our character is Muslim in as much Seinfeld is Jewish. Why? Because we’ve seen other groups normalized in the exact same way, and it works. Now it’s our turn. [Read more...]