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Interview: Fawzia Mirza on ‘Spunkle’ at the 2016 Chicago South Asian Film Festival

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CHICAGO – Chicago’s own Fawzia Mirza continues to break ground with her cutting edge stage and film work, and is presenting her latest short film effort, “Spunkle,” at the 7th Annual Chicago South Asian Film Festival (CSAFF). The film will screen at the Showplace ICON theatre in Chicago on October 9th, 2016, part of five days of South Asian themed films through October 10th. (see below for details).

“Spunkle” – which Mirza co-wrote with director Lisa Donato and long time collaborator Ryan Logan – is a play on terms “Sperm Donor” and “Uncle.” Matt (Jake Matthews) is asked to donate the necessary biological protocol for his older sister Saira (Fawzia Mirza), and her free spirited wife Maggie (Laura Zak). The film also recently played the Chicago Reeling2016 LGBTQ+ Film Festival.

Fawzia Mizra (right) with Laura Zak and Jake Matthews in ‘Spunkle’
Photo credit: Sparkle Motion Films

The Chicago South Asian Film Festival is in its seventh year, and its mission is to advance diversity in Chicagoland through cinema, conversation and culture. The festival gives South Asian talent, stories and themes a world platform, and is committed to providing an experience in cinema for filmmakers and moviegoers alike – with the warmth and personal touch that is unique to Chicago. The Festival primarily supports films from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Iran, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Tibet, but has also featured films from other Asian countries like Thailand and Vietnam, and in the case of “Spunkle,” the United States.

Fawzia Mirza talked about the film and her career with HollywoodChicago.com.

HollywoodChicago.com: What was the background behind “Spunkle,” especially since you wrote it with director Lisa Donato and your collaborator Ryan Logan?

Fawzia Mirza: I had been thinking on a story of two married woman and a brother. I had to work on other projects but eventually came back to it and brought the idea to Lisa Donato. She and I started writing a script about a South Asian woman named Saira, her sort of hippie wife named Maggie, and Matt, Saira’s brother.

Ryan Logan has been a long time collaborator of mine, and he had ideas on the story that helped flush Matt’s character out, so we all collaborated to bring our unique perspectives to the script. It’s also a story of unconventional relationships, and complicated ones. It’s also a bit of an exploration of ‘what would it be like to have a baby,’ or to ask a family member to participate in the process with you.

HollywoodChicago.com: You’ve had an amazing 2016, as far as the advancement of your career. Care to share a couple highlights?

Mirza: This year has been amazing – both 2016 and also since last year this time. I was nominated as a Champion of Change by the White House in Asian American Art & Storytelling. And I participated in the President’s Eid al-Fitr [Islamic holiday] reception at the White House this summer. Also I did my one woman show ‘Me, My Mom & Sharmila’ for Sharmila Tagore – a Bollywood heroine – and just performed it at the new Steppenwolf 1700 Theatre.

I was selected by 3Arts to receive an acting grant in 2015, and this year I was selected as their 2017 Artists Fellow at an Artist Residency in Woodside, California. I did my first art installation at Expo Chicago through 3Arts and 6018 North.

HollywoodChicago.com: What about your film accomplishments in 2016?

A Good Year for Fawzia Mizra
Photo credit: FawziaMizra.com

Mirza: Besides ‘Spunkle,’ which is on the film festival circuit, I’m in post production on a short documentary ‘The Streets Are Ours.’ I’m also in post production on ‘Signature Move,’ a feature I co-wrote with Lisa Donato, and co-produced with Brian & Jan Hieggelke, Eugene Sun Park and Nabeela Rasheed. This full-length feature film was directed by the amazing talent Jennifer Reeder, and features Indian film star Shabana Azmi, plus local talent Sari Sanchez, Charin Alzarez, Audrey Frances, Molly Brennan and Mark Hood.

I also participated in the Tribeca All Access program this year with the script and we just won a $52,000 post production grant from Tribeca/Los Cabos International Film Festival/LaboDigital. Those are some highlights, and I’m manifesting more.

HollywoodChicago.com: You continue to be an advocate for authentic diversity, gay/lesbian issues and your own ethnic background. How has this path been advantageous to your career?

Mirza: Making your own work is hard and beautiful. I love creating my own roles and telling stories of my identities, and providing work for performers I love. The power of creating your own work means you don’t have to wait for someone else to tell you your voice matters. I don’t think of my identity as ‘advantageous’ necessarily. It’s been a great struggle to navigate between my identities and communities – and to find self love and self empowerment – given all the different kinds of people who want to tell you ‘No, you can’t do that.’ But it has been life affirming.

And I’ve experienced affirmation by creating my stories and putting my voice out there. Also I’ve loved working with other amazing creators, learning from friends and collaborators, in addition to being open to possibility and dreams. Keeping that openness and vulnerability has allowed me to delve inside myself, and dream as big as it gets. Because why can’t a woman of color – who is also a lesbian, Muslim and Pakistani – dream as big as anyone else?

HollywoodChicago.com: What role, that you eventually would like to do, would you think no one would believe you could actually pull off?

Mirza: I think it’d be awesome to play a superhero, or someone who wields magic. I also wouldn’t mind taking on an action hero.

“Spunkle” is part of the 7th annual Chicago South Asian Film Festival, on Sunday, October 9th, 2016 (1:30pm), at the Kerasotes Showplace Icon Theatre – 1101 Delano Court (at Roosevelt Road) in Chicago. For an overview of the CSAFF, click here.

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Writer, Editorial Coordinator

© 2016 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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