I am a documentary filmmaker from Los Angeles with a focus on social-justice issues like gender equality, immigration and healthcare reform. Like many of my creative peers, I believe the tradition of storytelling is vital because it affirms one’s own experiences and reflects back narratives that makes spaces for others to exist. As a child of dual-ethnic (Iranian/Ecuadorian) and dual-faith (Muslim/Catholic) upbringing, I have always sought to create spaces for disenfranchised identities.
My latest collaboration is this song and music video about heartbreak and turning to spirituality as a way to reconnect with oneself. In the story, our protagonist turns to prayer, embraces solitude and engages in self-reflection and self-compassion in order to heal after heartbreak. Because the video features Myree Tillotson, a Latinx Muslim, it shares a culturally diverse look of Islam that has virtually no representation in popular media.
The video is inspired by the poetry of the 13th century Persian Muslim poet and Islamic scholar Jalaluddin Rumi: “I will soothe you and I will heal you, I will bring you roses, I too have been covered with thorns.”
It is also inspired by a Hadith Qudsi (a narration attributed to Allah and relayed by the Prophet Muhammad) in which Allah said “I am with the ones whose hearts are torn.”
I co-directed the video alongside Brandy Young, a senior at Dorsey High School who will begin college next year with the goal of getting her MBA. The musicians have dedicated all proceeds from the song to go towards Young’s college tuition.
The music video is created by myself, Brandy Young, Jaime Ballesteros, Robert Penna, Marina Hernandez, Jessica Augustine, Melissa Perez, Bernabe Bolanos, Kris Fortin, David Aquino and Servando Vargas. The song was composed by myself, Rene Pacheco, Crystal Cerecedes, Jonathan Rivera, Andrew Ramirez and Art Zavala Jr.
Shireen Alihaji is a documentary filmmaker and a volunteer at the Women’s Mosque of America. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.