“My work is very much about centring folks who haven’t been at the centre of the story”


Fawzia Mirza (she/they) is a trailblazing queer, Muslim, South Asian writer/director who’s films serve up much-needed representation while also making audiences laugh and cry. Her upcoming feature directorial debut, The Queen Of My Dreams, is a dramedy that explores the life of a Pakistani-Canadian family. Azra (Amrit Kaur), is a queer young woman who lives a very different life from her conservative Muslim mother Mariam (Nimra Bucha). But when grief strikes their family, Azra finds herself on a Bollywood-inspired journey through memories – both real and fantastical – from her mother’s younger years in Karachi to her own coming-of-age as an immigrant in rural Canada.

I get the chance to talk to Fawzia ahead of the film’s world premiere, here’s what she had to say…

DIVA: How are you feeling in the lead up to the release of The Queen Of My Dreams?

Fawzia: I’m really excited for the world premiere at Toronto and that moment when our cast and crew get to watch it in the theatre together. We have some of our team that’s flown in from Pakistan, we have some of our team from Nova Scotia coming in, we have some of our Toronto team, so it’s truly going to be an international affair.

The film stars the amazing Amrit Kaur who DIVA readers love from The Sex Lives Of College Girls. She plays two different characters in this film, which was exciting to see. What was it like working with her? 

She is an incredibly talented actor. She has this undeniable spark when she plays any character. We cast her working with an incredible Toronto casting agency, Jesse Griffiths Casting, and I knew from her audition that there was something really special about her work and her focus and commitment to the craft of film making and acting. She was able to bring her full self to both roles. She’s someone who is able to go to the depths of drama and, you know, so much of comedy also comes from drama. She’s an actor with great range.

What do you hope that queer South Asian viewers take away from watching the film?

My work is very much about centring folks who haven’t been at the centre of the story: queer people, South Asians, Muslims, immigrants. Complicated characters with multiple identities. One of the reasons I started writing and creating in the first place was I didn’t see characters who represented me and my identity, so one thing I hope that viewers and queer folk see is themselves. The stories that I can tell are often deeply inspired by, or have roots in, the personal. I think the more we tap into the personal, the more we can find the universality. 

I know that you came out in 2016, would you be comfortable in opening up about what this experience was like for you and whether or not you feel like your relationship with your identity has evolved in the years since doing so?

Well I came out much earlier than 2016, as we queer folks know coming out is a never ending process and journey and everyday we’re deciding what parts of ourselves to share with those we’re in conversation with at any given moment. 

This film is my feature directorial debut, but it has roots in my first short film that I made in 2012 called The Queen Of My Dreams, it has roots in a play that I developed in Chicago with some great partners called Me, My Mom And Sharmila, and then, the writing of this feature has its own journey, I can’t really talk about the writing per se because I’m a GWA member and the writer’s strike – and so when there’s a fair contract I look forward to talking with you further about that part of the process – but I will say that the short film that I made, it was a very public conversation of a really private struggle of whether I could be queer and Muslim and still love Bollywood romance. Could I do all of these things at the same time? And it’s through the journey of making that short film that I was able to embrace who I am.


Greta Gerwig mad history this year with her Barbie film. She has so many privileges that many other female directors don’t have, but do you think her success could help more diverse female directors get given more respect and more funding?

I think that Barbie and Greta Gerwig breaking box office numbers and breaking box office history is a huge win for all of us. Whether it’s women or anyone else who is seen as  marginalised or who’s not been given opportunities. It’s a very important moment because Hollywood looks at numbers, they weigh risks. [And to them] if you’re not a cis straight white man, you’re a risk. And so a billion plus dollars makes everything seem less risky, it seems like a sure thing and so that is very exciting to me. I hope it opens more doors for everybody because we’re not risky, that’s just an old way of thinking. We are actually a sure thing and people will show up to see our films and will show up to hear our stories, you just have to put us in positions of power and leadership.

Do you have any further thoughts on what needs to change within the industry in order for us to get more diverse stories told?

One of the things that I’m really excited about with The Queen Of My Dreams is that it’s a film that centres queer people and Muslim people and women and brown South Asian people and that is a story that’s been seen as a non mainstream story. It was also funded outside of the traditional Hollywood system, it was funded entirely in Canada, it was made in a very different system, a system that does support art and artists in a very different way. It’s a deeply indie independently made film. It’s really important, especially in this moment in time, that we look to other systems because clearly something isn’t working and something is broken in the traditional Hollywood system and so, how do we get our stories made? I think we do have to keep thinking outside the box.

Christmas is around the corner so, I have to ask, could we ever get a sequel to The Syed Family Xmas Eve Game Night?

Well, I can’t speak to getting a part two without talking to the writer Kausar Mohammed, one of my great collaborators. But I don’t know, maybe a strong shout out from DIVA will help spark her. Who knows, let’s see. 

Are there any other queer directors you’d love to bring DIVA readers’ attention to?

Dania Bdeir, Ally Pankiw, D. Smith and Olive Nwosu. 

I’ve loved speaking with you today. Before our time comes to an end, is there anything else you’d like to address that hasn’t been touched on?

It was incredible to shoot The Queen Of My Dreams not just in Canada, but in Pakistan. We worked with incredible crews and teams and had great local producing partners Kamil Chima and Carol Noronha. This movie couldn’t be made without the generosity of the people in Pakistan.

The Queen Of My Dreams has its UK premiere at the BFI London Film Festival in October, followed by the screening at the Iris Prize in Cardiff.


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