Interview with JINN Director Ajmal Zaheer Ahmad

ajmal zaheer ahmad

What inspired the plot for this movie? Why was it crucial to incorporate the perspectives of all three major religions in it and what are you hoping to achieve through this film?

You’re going to have to go on April 4th to find out. It is unique, we’re advertising it as a scary film but as you can tell, anyone that’s Muslim will be able to see things inside the film that no one else is able to see. So it’s actually a pretty authentic introduction to the concept of Jinn as many cultures from around the world know from India to Arabic countries, this is sort of taking all those elements and boiling it down into one concept and wrapping it into a supernatural adventure. So that we can show it in an entertaining way, it’s really not a horror movie at all although we’re advertising it as such because that’s the best genre for sales. In reality it’s a good versus evil movie.

Good or bad experiences in making this film?

The reason I made it was because most of the time, Muslims are very smart as individuals and great as families but as a group of people we’re incompetent. We can barely stop fighting each other let alone move forward so what I always tell people is that the reason we’re in the situation we’re in now is because. No one makes you look bad, it’s no one’s responsibility to make you look good except yours. Up until current day, that happens rarely, we’re always waiting for others to tell our stories and make assumptions, say good or bad things and we just react to these things. So the idea of why we made this is movie was to say hey listen this is an opportunity to make a movie that’s for mainstream that deals with mythology, history, religion, family, culture, stories, traditions that comes from our background and reveal that to the western world and make a product that we can actually show to ourselves as well and that we can actually be proud that it’s out in the world which has never really happened before in this particular way. so when you do that you begin to see something, when you make a movie and you make it to a certain level people tend to look at it as a movie, they don’t judge it based on some particular religious notion, the amount of feedback we’ve gotten from this movie is 97% positive. Some will always be negative. People are like well that’s cool,t his is about the jinn and then they search for it and the guardian symbol so we’re getting many more positive comments that negative. And the negative is general just questions like hey is that okay not actual negative feedback. That’s because we’re doing it on a large scale and rather than critiquing it people are watching it as a film saying wow this is something real, that’s cool. And that’s the theory behind the project was to make something cool that could be shown to the world.

And the Islamic community’s reaction?

Funny answer to that is that the other reason why we made this movie is that we decided to put this project so far ahead and jump so many step beyond what any brown people do, most people will have a fundraising dinner or post a youtube video, nobody sets their sites very high, if you’re lucky they might make a documentary. We decided to take this and jump ahead many steps so that the people who normally would try to criticize you would want to jump on the bandwagon. We have 100 000 fans on facebook now and we just started the ad campaign this weekend. You kind of see that everyone that would normally say something bad is staying quiet because they know that if this becomes successful this can be a very powerful tool, a very powerful medium and the people that control it and those that are making it those are the ones who’s voices will be heard the loudest. So we haven’t heard any backlash, we hear small things but it’s nothing that really has any affect on us. Nothing controversial, outright saying this is a bad idea or a bad movie. If you look at it, inside the trailer the last fifteen seconds that was a callout to muslims across the world sending out a message to everyone saying this is something different. That’s gotten a lot of attention and I think it’s very exciting to have that in the trailer. It becomes in the movie even more powerful because it’s one of the ways you fight off the jinn.

We’ve chosen not to really cater to any of that small things bother us, in fact, what I’m betting on is that those people who would be vocally against it will be vocally supporting it once they see the movie. We’re pretending the movie is a horror, it’s really a family oriented good versus evil authentic and entertaining medium. But the facts are all correct. There’s nothing in it that anyone can contradict. We talk about the jinn being made of fire, they can have powers, can be good or evil. They can be scary when they want to be and also we’ve told the real mythology of where the concept comes from and it cannot be contradicted, it won’t drive people away by creating divisions but it’ll bring people together because we brought together all three major relgiions and their views on the jinn. We want to bring people together, so we’re trying to wrap the idea of the jinn in all three religions and turn it into a binding force rather than a force that creates division between them.

Tell me about your experience in the filmmaking field as a Muslim, what has been like? Was there ever a point where you felt that there were too many obstacles in your way because of your background?

It hasn’t been overtaken by other people, they are the ones that created it because we didn’t. Everyone else said hey this is a good idea. What we don’t realize is that just with the amount of money in one country such as KSA or Dubai or Qatar, if 15 saudi princes decided not to buy their Ferraris, we could purchase two or three of the major studios in Hollywood. This is what I plan on changing, that you can actually with the amount of money that are coming in from oil, our people haven’t figured out that 5 billion dollars can change the world and they are making tons of it a year. it doesn’t cost that much to buy a studio. So this the way to do it, we’ve chosen to take that upon ourselves to start changing that dialogue and this is the first step for the next many years that will change the future for us completely. So you’re trying to open up the forum for Muslims that want to be filmmakers and hope to do that and take our story into our own hands. That is one of the major point of this thing. And there’s another, here in America we live a very good life and if you make 50K a year you’re on the top echelons of society and you’re satisfied as brown people, you don’t want to move past that. we lack courage we don’t want to go beyond that, the truth is that if this movie comes out on April 4th and every theater that weekend is packed so full that you can’t get anymore people in, on Monday morning the thing that will have changed will be a dialogue that these people are a demographic with money and a desire for content and then within a matter of years if we continue this way we will turn from being terrorists and minorities into a very attractive demographic that will change everything in the media and the news to being catering to them rather than using them to cater to others. If you can prove that you are a group of people that will stand up and mobilize and have money guess what, the next movie that comes out won’t have a muslim terrorist in it will be a brown hero in it just like our movie and it might be a million dollar movie because if we’re not making it someone else will. That’s how the world works, that’s how America works and that’s something we have yet to figure out as a community. Money and number count in the western world so if you can show that you can mobilize people and that’s what we’re trying to do by spreading the word and packing the theater, but from the muslim standpoint when we talk to people on the inside we tell them this is your chance if you pass it up don’t complain that no one is making content for you. This is the time that one of your own decided to risk it and try to do something and when you go out in numbers it’ll only benefit you in the future and it could change it for you and us as a community. We’re doing this because we want to build a company here in Michigan that will diversify the economy and create a new way of getting our stories out there and taking the control of it into our own hands and showing other people that this can work but you just have to have the guts to go out and do it. We have lots of plans for the future, if this thing becomes a success the sky is the limit. And on top of us doing more of it other studios major studios will be doing it. And you may find yourselves being catered to in five years rather than being turned into villains. This is the first brick placed in a very large plan we have for the next 30 years, if planted properly will create a very good foundation for the future success of this plan.

It’s very interesting that you tie in both eastern and western ideals into your work and gives it an edge above others, is this a theme that you plan to incorporate in all your pieces?


What’s next for you after the release of Jinn?

Jinn 2… our plan is that we get this to a point of success where we can just begin immediately working on a Jinn2.

Where do you draw your inspiration from? Is there a particular director which you look up to and would like to emulate?

When I was little, when I learnt what a director was, I made an announcement that this is what I wanted to do when I grew up and I haven’t wavered from that. I’ve been in that process since that time. It’s a childhood decision.

What’s the number one piece of advice you would give to the younger generation that hopes to follow in your footsteps?

I will tell them look if this is what you want to do then you have to have the strength and the courage to understand that you have to find your own way to get to do it. Because anyone that has given you any advice whether supportive or non supportive is wrong because no one can give you advice on doing anything that they have never done themselves so unless you know the best in the field, no one around you is going to be able to give you any worthwhile advice so it’s best not to listen but to make a clear decision that you are willing to stick with if you choose to do something for free to five years and see how it goes and then go to your fallback plan, then just go to your fallback plan now because you’re already setting yourself up for failure, you’re not really committing to it. You have to commit to it and you have to understand that each one of us has a different path to success and it comes with a lot of hard work and doing this over and over again and not believing in the traditional concepts of success and failure these are again most people are trained to believe that success has a monetary value to it and failure is failure in real life there is no such thing as failure, you can’t fail as long as you get to the next step. It’s about getting to the end of the staircase, the point where those people who thought that those little steps were failures, they suddenly realize that they were all steps towards your success. They jump on the bandwagon. They turn around and it becomes silly because it becomes almost like they’re giving you way too much credit and attention.

It’s about making yourself known as a group of people that should be catered to.


Interviewed by Yasmine Hassan, TIM Associate Features Editor.  Read her article here.

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    • David Knox II

      I feel bad for the Muslims caught in the middle of this Holy war and the extremists terrorizing the world. I feel bad for those who push their beliefs onto others and react violently when they are not accepted. Other than that whole mess, I enjoyed this movie and hope the sequel comes out soon. It was nice to see an Arabic hero rather than villain.