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Muslim, Pakistani and Movies. Sound an uncanny combination. But that wasn't what Irfan Rydhan thought. Irfan Rydhan, son of a Pakistani couple, born and bred in USA, breaks the usual image of a young kid in a foreign land. Young at heart, young in age, thought of promoting his heritage through the most effective media of our time. Movies.
He joined a friend and started working on this project to raise the image of his Pakistan by making a an independent film about Muslim/Pakistani youth growing up in America. It wasn't easy. They had to learn the ropes. They had to find money to finance the project. They still have to. But they are trying........
An Interview by Sadia Hanif

Tell us about yourself? Where were you born and where did you study?
A: I was born in San Jose, California on Oct. 5th, 1974. I went to UC Berkeley, graduated in May 1997 with a BA in Architecture.

Tell us about how and why your family moved to USA?
A: My father came to California in 1969 to go to college. Afterwards he decided to raise his family here, because of the better job and school opportunities.

Tell us about your initial work?
A: I work at an Architectural/Engineering firm in San Jose, CA. I do mostly Computer Aided Design and Drafting using the AutoCad program.

How did Jam Productions got off the ground?
A: Jam-Productions initially started as a venue to raise money for our independent film project about Muslim youth (specifically Pakistani) growing up in America. Eventually we decided to create a production company which would provide video/film production services to our local SF Bay Area community. We officially started JAM-PRODUCTIONS in March of 1999, but both myself and Javaid have been doing work in the fields of script writing, video production and editing for several years earlier. We both had the dream of creating our own movie which comes from the point of view of Muslims living in America. I enjoy writing and watching movies and Javaid is experienced in the technical and production aspects of the fields of broadcast media, so we decided to put our talents together and create JAM-PRODUCTIONS.

Where does get inspiration for your work?
A: I have always been interested in movies for a long time, and enjoy watching them, so I get a lot of my inspiration from them. I also enjoy writing, and I write mostly about experiences I have had while growing up Muslim in America.

Do you think you have the opportunities to make it big in the movie industry?
A: At this time, I don’t think we have too many opportunities, because I now realize that it takes a lot of time, money, effort and most importantly CONTACTS who are already in the industry. But we do have the talent and the DRIVE to continue to aim for our goal, We just have to be patient and keep at it!

Do you think your background has hindered or it has spurred you to work harder?
A: I don’t think my background has hindered me, but it has made us work harder, since there are very few Pakistanis and Muslims in general in these fields of the media, so we are doing it for ourselves and the NEXT generation, so it will be easier for them to get into these fields of TV, film, and other media in the future.

Do you feel that your work is helping build a different Pakistan image?
A: Yes, we are trying to show the world that Pakistanis and Muslims are talented and creative people, and we too have a story to tell, and people should know about it, and they are interested in it as well. Americans want to know what Islam and Muslims are really about, and they want to learn, we just have to do it!

How would you like other Pakistanis residing in USA help you indifferent projects of yours?
A: We have had many people in our community supporting us and donating money for our film project, and we are very thankful to them for that. We would appreciate if the many successful Pakistanis and Muslims in this country would give more support to their youth who are trying to make a difference in this country. I'm not just talking about financial support, but also encouragement and fostering the dreams of their children, who want to do something different with their future careers, whether that be letting them explore alternative career choices such as broadcasting, journalism or film, or by giving their business to those Muslims and youth who have already started in these fields. For example if someone wants to have their wedding videotaped or wants to make a commercial for their business, then we have the talent and expertise to do these services for them, so they should first look for Muslim business which can provide these services for them. Give us an opportunity to show us what we can do for you.

I heard that you have been involved with community work? Tell us more about it?
A: My family is very involved in the local Muslim community in the San Jose Area. I usually help out during Ramadan, by serving food at our community iftaars, and by helping to clean up the masjid.
Myself and Javaid have also volunteered our time to help out whenever there is a large community event, by helping to organize the children’s and youth activities. We also have helped to raise money for local masjids in our area. And we hope to use our talents in video/film production to raise awareness about the Muslim communities in America. In fact we created a short video which was shown at a local Art fair about Islamic Masjid design in the Bay Area, which included a 3/d computer animation of a local mosque renovation project, which we also helped to create.

What motivates you towards community work?
A: My father is very involved in our local community and Masjid in the San Jose area, so he has taught us that from his example. We have seen, that most people in our community only complain and criticize about the faults of the community or local Masjid, but when it comes time to help out, give their support or volunteer their time…they’re silent! My father is the opposite of this. He gets involved, and if there is a problem, not only will he point it out, he will do whatever he can to fix it. So I have learned to become more active and involved in the affairs of the Muslim community in my area, from him.

What message would you give to other Pakistani families living in USA?What would you suggest to other Pakistani offspring who wants to make some outstanding place here in USA and across world?
A: As I said earlier, Pakistani and Muslim parents should allow their children to go into the fields and careers of their choice, and not force their children into a few select fields such as Medicine or Engineering, because of the prestige and financial gain they might get from them. If we Muslims want to become stronger and more successful in this American society, then we have to expand our expertise and get into EVERY field and career. We have to get Muslims into the fields of Journalism, TV, Radio, Film, Politics, Government, LAW, Teaching, Architecture, etc.
This is the only way we can truly change our situation and end all the prejudice, racism, and stereotypes that this country has against Islam and Muslims. So I appeal to Pakistani and Muslim families and parents, that think of your COMMUNITY and not just your individual goals and aims. If your child does not’t know what they want to do when they grow up, then SUGGEST to them an ALTERNATIVE career such as the ones have listed above. Don’t only think about money and prestige, but also community growth and strength.

Do you think that with the presence of Internet it is possible for Pakistanis across the world to unite and let the world know that we aren't as backward as they think we are? What would you suggest for this?
A: Yes, I think the Internet is a way for us Pakistanis and Muslims to become more united all over the world, and we should use this technology to our benefit. Many people believe TV, FILM and the Internet are evil and are afraid of it. But this is an ignorant and backward way of thinking. The media and the Internet are TOOLS, and like any tool, they can be used for GOOD or bad. So we Muslims have the opportunity to show the whole world about how great Islam is, and we should use these tools to help spread the word about Islam as well as become more united.

Pakistan Zindabad