Iram Parveen Bilal Discusses Her Family Drama I’ll Meet You There – SXSW Filmmaker In Focus

I'll Meet You There - Courtesy of film

The 2020 SXSW Film Festival is less than two months away! Before you get your fill of breakfast tacos, live music, and conversations with some of the brightest minds in their fields, get to know films from our lineup a little bit better with our Filmmaker In Focus series. Dive into our Q&A with director Iram Parveen Bilal as she tells us about her film I’ll Meet You There, which will World Premiere in Narrative Feature Competition.

In your own words, what does this film mean to you?

Iram Parveen Bilal: This is the first script I ever wrote and it is the film I always knew I had to make. I wrote the first draft of this film 13 years ago, during film school. I wrote it when I didn’t know if I had a voice that was worth listening to. It comes straight from the heart, dealing with subjects of family, dance, spirituality and self-expression. It draws from personal life experiences, and how it came together, is a story of faith and belief in itself.

Therefore it is extremely special and I accept it with all its perfect and imperfect moments. I can’t wait to share it with the world and I can’t wait to transcend beyond and build on the healing and vulnerability it has birthed inside of me, with future projects.

What motivated you to tell this story?

IPB: My sister, who taught me how to dance, now believes that dancing and music are sinful. This is, on one end of the spectrum, a story about reclaiming ideology and being Muslim in a post 9/11 world that has caused major fractions within the Muslim community. On the other end, it is a film about learning to redefine a new world order where we can peacefully and lovingly coexist without judgment.

What do you want the audience to take away?

IPB: Firstly, that a Muslim-American family is very much identical to their family and hence, create more empathy and sameness to reduce the negative stigma of the “otherness” that socio-politics has created. Secondly, I’d love to provoke healing and empower anyone who feels they are a misfit in their family – where family can be defined by race, religion, culture, nation state, economic status, personal choices or whatever identifier one associates with. Lastly, I want them to learn to express their honest self and be able to reintegrate into a sense of family and society that nourishes them in their true self-expression.

What were you doing when you found out you were coming to SXSW?

IPB: I was 39 weeks pregnant with my first child and trying to do whatever I could that didn’t involve immense physical activity. So, naturally I decided to work on my end-of-year cash flow statement for my investors on the film. As I broached my inbox to email my accountant, I saw an unread message that wasn’t a usual rejection, but instead an INVITATION. I barely skimmed through the important information and inevitably, started crying, called my husband, who freaked out thinking my water had broken! That was followed by an international congratulatory text from Heather Rae who was jet lagged somewhere in Europe. I instantly FaceTimed her and shared my tears with her. It was perfect. Ten days later, my daughter was born.

What made you choose SXSW to showcase your film to the world?

IPB: We knew that this film was poised to premiere in America, because the story and the challenges strongly resemble those of many American families today, who want what to live by American values while raising their children to be true to their own heritage. We also wanted an A-list festival that was selective and yet one where we would not be lost, but given the due attention and care. SXSW is exactly the place to unveil a small film with a big heart, like I’ll Meet You There.

Add I’ll Meet You There to your SXSW Schedule. Stay tuned as we share more interviews with our SXSW 2020 filmmakers!

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I’ll Meet You There – Courtesy of film

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