Yesterday, I had the honor of being part of the premiere of ‘The Girl Deep Down Below,’ a Sci-fi web series filmed in Chicago about a group of Muslim girls working together to solve strange disappearances of members in their community. That’s not all! The looming presence of a supernatural entity adds to the thrill and mystery of their search.
The creator of the web series and incredibly talented and enthusiastic Ali Abbas, was awarded The Chicago Digital Media Production Fund administered by Chicago Filmmakers. The highlight of the evening was getting to know more about the purpose of the fund and Ali’s personal aspiration for this project. Chicago Filmmakers grant supports work which encourages social change. The social justice topic of appropriate representation of Muslims in media was the crux of the Q&A post premiere and it was fantastic. The fervor in the dialogue among the cast members amplified Ali’s ambition for wanting to address the misrepresentation and underrepresentation of Musims in mainstream media. Sabeen Sadiq, fellow cast member-character name Maya, straightforwardly says, “Muslims get garbage roles in the media, the stereotypical roles, or the reverse role, i.e. giving a Hijabi girl a role where she’s sexually repressed and trying to get ‘liberated.’ With this series, you have Muslim girls who are just as ‘normal’ as any nonmuslim girl. They’ve stumbled upon a supernatural world and areworking as detectives in attempts to search for their friends.” Sabeen also wanted the world to know that there is no terrorist role in this web series.
It was beautifully touching to hear Ali’s endearing remarks about the talent he was gracious to work with. He said he was bothered by the fact that for some of the cast members, this was their first acting opportunity. He felt the reason for this is because their talent is overlooked due to their(Muslim) appearance and/or (Muslim)name. Ali closed with a morale-boosting message for Muslim and minority youth and for children to be encourage to explore and flourish in the arts. Afterall, who better to competently represent a group of people than one of their own?
The first season will be available to watch on Vimeo March 2nd. I highly encourage viewership for more than the thrill of suspense and riddle. This project has a focused purpose for the Muslim community, especially the youth, to be able to turn on the television and watch people who look like them, talk like them, and dress like them, do life like they do. Banal, mass-produced, condescending nonsense targeted to shame an entire group of people is not embedded in the script, snuck into the composition of the characters, or intricately woven into the plot. This is the beginning of an important movement- an attempt to rid media of false sanctions that are strategically placed with the intention of hindering civil liberties of American Muslims in the real world. Watch it and more info here.
Written by Nazhah Khawaja