“People tend not to take women as seriously as they take men,” says Hemal Trivedi, “women are less threatening, so people always think that women won’t make anything of real impact.” But that’s obviously not the case with Trivedi, an Academy Award-winning director (she also won an Emmy award for editing), whose documentary, ‘Among the Believers’ (2015) is nominated for the UNESCO, Fellini award at IFFI 2015.
By Aliya Abreu
‘Among the Believers’ is about the Pakistani cleric, Abdul Aziz Raza, who is a staunch ISIS supporter [ISIS, or Islamic State is an extremist jihadist group that controls territory in Iraq and Syria, held responsible for the recent murder of 130 Parisians], and ally of the Taliban. Trivedi decided to make the documentary after she lost a friend during the November 2008 terror attack in Mumbai. Understanding the risks inherent in such a project, Trivedi insisted on a Pakistani co-director, and Mohammad Ali Naqvi fitted the role perfectly. Paradoxically, the director told The Peacock that the movie project would have been harder to pull off, had she been a man.
After the four-day assault on Mumbai that left 164 dead, and many more wounded, Trivedi was really angry with the terrorists, and she says, in a way hated them. But her long journey to make ‘Among the Believers’ made her realize that most people are just victims of circumstance. Placed in a similar situation as Abdul Aziz Raza, she believes, another person in another part of the world would have behaved the same way. She began to empathize with her notorious subject as she spent more time understanding his reality, “Mohammad and I kept having these fights. He kept getting angry with the whole situation. I, on the other hand, could see that Raza himself was a victim.” Trivedi said that making the documentary made her realize that there are patterns of behaviour in all societies. A lot of the world’s problems are similar, and there’s no point in typecasting. “Pakistan is like any other country. There is this fringe minority of people who believe that their beliefs are the only right beliefs, and that everyone else is wrong. But it’s up to the politicians of a country to ensure that these people aren’t empowered.”
While Trivedi believes in the power of films, she believes that movies alone cannot create a revolution. “It’s important that people talk about the various issues affecting the world through different media,” she says, “but all these attempts can only add to the ongoing dialogue, and there is no way they can solve the problems at hand. The war on terror can only be won by systematically empowering the moderates who are already fighting against extremists. The essential point of my documentary is to show that if there is a solution to terrorism, then it has to be found from among the believers. Too many other countries interfering from the outside doesn’t help solve a problem.” n