Episode 14: Farheen Umar

Film making is not an easy path… the most difficult thing has been to be sometimes thought of as a failure by people around you within the Asian community who see film making, painting, and songwriting as a hobby… that has been the most painful part. The most difficult part is isolation- there were not a lot of people doing film making in the south Asian community-there was no collaboration, just a lot of skepticism.
— Farheen Umar

"Criticism doesn't break my confidence."

Farheen Umar, Documentary Filmmaker, on making documentaries and covering reality

Farheen Umar has set out to accomplish what is most needed in the world of media today, and that is to produce engaging and immersive films that tackle difficult topics facing the global community.  As a Pakistani American documentary film maker, Farheen’s mission is to record the activities and emotions of real life people, to incite thoughtful inquiry into one’s assumptions, and to increase one’s capacity for knowledge and truth.  

In the current environment of rising Islamophobia and xenophobia, Farheen has taken challenging subjects like the hijab (Muslim veil) and the Israel-Gaza conflict and has turned them into human stories devoid of politics.  Farheen’s first documentary, “Women in Islam- Veiling and Seclusion”, sets the record straight on Muslim women and the hijab.  Through the film, Farheen confronts stereotypes of the oppressed veiled Muslim woman and uses her film to uncloak these stereotypes through showing the history, background and tradition of the veil.  The film was shown internationally as well in the States -aired on PBS.

Farheen’s second film “Farah”, tells the story of a three year old Palestinian girl, Farah, who was afflicted by third-degree burns after a bomb went off near her house.  Farah was brought to San Diego in 2009 to receive hospital treatment and as a result developed a bond with her new adopted host family.  Farheen documented her yearlong recovery process and traveled to Gaza subsequently.  The film is making its festival circuit.

Podcast Details

Find out from the podcast how Farheen:

  • Took a more riskier career path and left her corporate business job
  • Was prompted to create a documentary on the subject of the veil and the insights she learned through the process.
  • Experimented with a different style of documentary film making and what led her to make “Farah”
  • Traveled to Gaza and the life changing impact it had on her
  • Shares tips in how you can increase yourself, your mind, and your vision
  • Changed her definition of “success” through the years and how she defines it today
  • Enjoys criticism more than accolades - while having her fair share of rejection
  • Shares confessions of what really goes on behind the scenes of a film maker’s life    

"I am lucky to have found something that has satisfied me to the core".  Farheen Umar

Farheen is a brave film maker who is taking on topics that need more dialog and discourse in the global community.  The journey to becoming a film maker was as not an easy one, with many bumps in the road.  You don't want to miss listening to Farheen's story!      

About Farheen

Farheen Umar is a documentary producer/director with works that have broadcast on PBS and international television.  Farheen’s first documentary, “Women of Islam-Veiling and Seclusion” sets the record straight on Muslim women and the veil. 

Her second documentary, “Farah”, was filmed in the USA and Palestine over four years.  The film is a co-production of PASHA FILMS and ALJAZEERA NETWORK.  The film has screened at Cinema Verite Iran and Aljazeera International festival and is continuing its festival circuit. It is scheduled to broadcast in 2016 on Aljazeera Documentary channel in Middle East/North Africa.

Farheen has spoken at numerous forums in USA on the topic of independent filmmaking, women in filmmaking and misrepresentation of Islam and Middle East in USA.  She has appeared in print and on television on these subjects. See www.pashafilms.com for details.
Farheen has also worked in production and anchoring roles for broadcast networks CNBC and NBC San Diego. Farheen lives in California and has an MBA from University of San Diego and Media certifications from UCLA and UCSD.