As a former public defender, I have always been passionate about issues of social justice and inequities in our society. And as a filmmaker, I have always
been intrigued by questions of cultural identity, tradition and belonging, and drawn to stories about strong women who defy expectations and societal
constraints. So, when I was introduced to Ilhan Omar in December or 2015,
within 5 minutes of meeting her, it was clear to me that she was remarkable, and that her bold attempt, in her own words, as “an extreme other” to take on the establishment and challenge entrenched systems of power fell soundly in the center of all these circles of fascination for me. I also recognized that in following Ilhan’s attempt to unseat her 43 year incumbent opponent and defeat her male challenger, I would be able to delve into themes about what representative democracy could really look like, while also exploring dynamics of race, gender, and Islamaphobia, all issues that I connect to personally as a white, Jewish, American woman. And, I was thrilled by the access that Ilhan and her team were willing to give me, and I knew that the opportunity to become embedded in her campaign would make for filmmaking gold – endless hours of rich cinema verité material in a high stakes setting, unfolding over a politically charged year parallel to the 2016 national Presidential race.
What I couldn’t have known at the outset, however, was how profoundly this
story was going to fit into a much larger political and cultural moment, and
movement – movements – that continue to rapidly unfold and evolve before our
eyes. The surging hunger for true representation in all spheres of our lives, and the wave of women and young people stepping forward to claim their voices and demand a seat at the table is thrilling for me. It is my hope that TIME FOR ILHAN will encourage future candidates like Ilhan Omar to run, and encourage everyday citizens to get involved, whether as campaign volunteers, or simply by showing up to exercise their right to vote. TIME FOR ILHAN is a definitely an entertaining campaign drama and personal portrait of one of America’s biggest rising political stars. But it’s more than that. My vision is that it will serve as a “how-to” for grass roots/local level citizens/women of color/young people and anyone who has felt that the political system is impenetrable and hopeless, for how they can show up and make change.