Maha Yousaf

Standards: The South Asian Dream

What is the story behind your music video?
"Standards: The South Asian Dream" is The music video for 'Come Thru' by Abdullah Siddiqui and Maanu, which follows a girl who is struggling mentally and emotionally as she deals with the struggles of following a career path that wasn't her passion. This is a sentiment that many South Asian students can relate to or can empathize with. We see her do a form of metamorphosis, as she takes the first step toward following her dream.

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What should people take away, gain, realize after watching your music video?
The Goal of this project is to start a conversation about how so many students feel this societal pressure to do something they may not truly want. I want to change that- this is part of a bigger goal to educate the community on more careers that aren't just STEM. I want to use this project to spearhead projects that truly advocate for the arts and change the notion that you cannot be successful in careers that are creative.

Do you think that films/music video can change people for the better or for the worse?
I believe that film has a strong power to connect with people and so it truly comes down to the power of the film maker in what change they want to embed in the person. This is why heavy research and intention is so important when it comes to filmmaking because what do you want people to take away- good or bad.

What creation style did you use in the production of your project? What cameraman elements did you use?
I wanted to take a narrative route with this video, and truly use color and dialogue to emphasize the message of the song and video.

How did you select the actors for your project?
I wanted to try to get people who could truly echo the emotions well, but at the end of the day- it worked better in terms of the timeline to have people who would understand the role to a deeper level- i casted my father and myself for the role that was inspired by my story.

Why do you think your film should appeal to distributors?
They should invest in this film, because this film as stated is the start of a bigger change i want to bring. I intend to work on this topic and move forward with a documentary focusing on this same topic with the research i did, and further educate people on why its important to follow your passions and truly turn it into profession.

At which festival has your film been screened?
So far- it is screened at LiftOff Global network- in toronto, and screened at an award ceremony called best of ringling.

How did your acquaintances react when they first saw the music video?
  • David Houle, a futurist, and keynote speaker, and author of The Shift Age, spoke about how my film was very impactful- that it drove him to tears, and encouraged others around him to watch as well. He awarded me the gold award as he was the juror of best of ringling, and said 'this film will be looked back upon as the first film by an esteemed director and producer in the industry.'

  • I did private screenings for this film, and each time i had peers coming to me in tears, and how even though they were not south asian they related to the film.

  • My family was extremely supportive, and loved the film- every time they had the opportunity they wanted to watch the film and show it to their friends and family in private screenings.

If you could change something in your music video, what would it be?
I believe I would try to be more experimental, add animated elements.

Which movies are your favorites and why?
  • 3 idiots; a Bollywood movie which tackles a similar thread of topics that my film was on, but also the storyline is truly one i could rewatch and relate to at any point of my life.

  • The Secret Life of Walter Mitty which has such beautiful cinematography, and an amazing storyline.

  • Everything everywhere all at once, which takes a very beautiful and strong message and showcases it in ways that is very entertaining for the audience.

What topics do you like to address in your stories?
I like messages that empower voices, and emphasize a powerful story. Whether thats one that is my own, or one I could relate to, or working with people who have stories of their own.

What is your motivation in making music videos?
Music is such an important part of people's lives, it is my muse for filmmaking, and so to showcase narrative stories using music can help promote a story that will stay with a person.

Which contemporary filmmakers motivate you the most?
Sharmeen Chinoy, a Pakistani female filmmaker who will soon direct the next starwars movies.

What projects do you plan to shoot in the future?
I plan to create a documentary based around the same topic as my film- but traveling to pakistan, UK, and US, to show that the problem stems not just in south asian countries, but in the culture outside in the west as well.

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Maha Yousaf is a Pakistani-American multidisciplinary artist with a B.A in Visual Studies, at Ringling College of Art and Design. She uses Film, Photography, Graphic Design, and Visual Development to explore themes of identity and empowerment in her work. These all derive from her experiences in Pakistan and the United States.