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Amir (left) and Soren (right)

Since 9/11…

Amir Hossain. Remember that name. He’s only 15 years of age, but he’s already won a trip to New York for making a short and original film inspired by 9/11. It’s a big topic, and it raises some very big issues – but Amir and his film-making partner Soren Harrison bring it down to a much smaller scale in an attempt to highlight the human cost of the tragedy itself and the prejudices it unleashed. It’s slick and focussed, and it’s a delight.

Since 9/11 is an educational charity which supports pupils to learn about the events, causes and consequences of 9/11. The charity is run by representatives of New York organisations which were involved in the aftermath of the attacks that day, and it has a London office too. It runs regular essay writing and film-making competitions for students. Amir and Soren were already making films when they heard about the competition, and this seemed a perfect competition to enter.

“I have a passion for film-making and for many social issues,” said Amir when he popped into the London Bangla office to tell us about his winning film. “I wanted to get my views about Islamophobia and anti-Muslim discrimination across on film, so when I saw the brief for this competition – which was make an original film about 9/11 – it was the perfect combination.

“I wanted to show how some people have a misconception about Islam and believe that because of 9/11 all Muslims are terrorists. I wanted to show that 9/11 affected everyone – perhaps including those you would not have realised were affected – and people misjudge others and their motives.”

Amir and his friends talked through their ideas, and then worked up the best story. The starting point was the Islamophobia that 9/11 unleashed: but how to tell it? “We found what we thought was an original approach,” said Amir. “We liked it and developed it. Young Muslims like myself face discrimination every day – but not to the extremes that are shown in the film! Still, it’s an interesting topic and people need to be more aware of it.”

To appeal to fellow teenagers, they set their story in a school, where everyday events are coloured by post-9/11 prejudices. The climax of the film occurs when two pupils set upon the two main protagonists and beat them up. It’s cleverly filmed, with effects that imply violence rather than showing it in real time so the viewer is left in no doubt what occurred but doesn’t have to watch a realistic portrayal. “Bullying at school is something that I have seen happen and it brought action into the film.” said Amir. “Having this incident at the centre of the story makes the film relevant to other young people as it relates to something they have experienced for themselves.”

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A scene from the film


This young film-maker is about to start Year 11 at Hammersmith Academy – but his interest in filming began around the time he joined the school. “I started making films around the age of 11,” Amir explains. “At first I did them on my mum’s Nokia phone, working with my cousins and other family members. By the time I was 14, I was begging my parents to buy me a camera. Fortunately, they saw I had a talent, and they bought me my own camera – which was a huge step up. I started making more films with my school friends.”

Amir is almost entirely self-taught: partly thanks to his own practical efforts and partly by watching what others do. “There’s nothing like watching other films to help you learn the ropes,” says Amir. He does take Media Studies at school – but that is much more about the spoken word than about filming techniques.

Amir and his friends will be spending the next year concentrating on their GCSEs, but they will also be looking for a good route into the film-making profession. Alongside their studies, they will still be making films. The friends are entering as many competitions as they can find, to get their names out there. They are also writing their own filmscript to give them a vehicle to showcase their talents. The big decision, though, is whether to stay in education and try to find post-16 and university courses which will teach them more about film-making and will give them formal qualifications, or whether to try to break into the industry while they are still very young, and learn the ropes while they are working, if they can get a break.

In the meantime, Amir was looking forward to his prize. It began with a trip to the US Embassy in early September to be presented with the winners’ certificate. Then came the trip to New York (for which the young film-makers missed the start of term – but which was worth it). There was a packed itinerary for the trip, including visits to police departments and schools as well as tourist attractions such as the Empire State Building.

“It’s funny,” said Amir. “At the start of the year, before we heard about this competition, we were saying we would love to go to New York. Now it’s happened!”

Start imagining yourself at the Oscars, Amir and Soren: there’s every chance you’ll get there too.

Watch the winning video on: