Bob Ahmed opens his interview at the 2021 SEEMA Summit with a translation from a poem written by a famous Indian poet, Mirza Ghalib: “To be human is easy, but to be humane is almost impossible.” Thus was born the inspiration for his award-winning short Tikkun Olam (2021), which tackles the subject of homelessness in Washington, D.C.
For anyone who has lived in the nation’s capital or is familiar with the city’s history of poverty, you may not be surprised by the alarming number of homeless, an issue that plagues veterans and civilians alike. Tikkun Olam is a poignant film that revolves around the love and humanity of an eight-year-old boy who encounters a homeless veteran.
Based on Ahmed’s own experiences while living in Washington, D.C., The Daily Times described the film as an “urgently needed story of hope in our broken world today” with “blistering performances”. Views & News describes the film as “a rare, polished gem” with “riveting performances”. Voice of America calls it “a unique film on an important topic”.
Tikkun Olam won almost universal acclaim garnering success on the festival circuit where the director’s choice to focus on his actors, putting them in a position to evoke truly intense emotional responses was rewarded. The film won ‘Best Short Film – Teens’ at the 22nd ShorTS International Film Festival in Trieste, Italy in July 2021. The short is also an official selection for the 35th Washington DC International Film Festival and the 27th Sedona International Film Festival, which is ranked amongst the “Top 10 film festivals in the world.”
“I studied at the New York Film Academy and that is where I really got inspired to make film,” says Ahmed in an interview with South Asian icon, Aroon Shivdasani, at the 2021 SEEMA Summit.
Ahmed believes his role as the director is not to evoke emotion from his actors, but rather to remove the pressure from the set and create an environment in which the actors can create someone truly special on camera.
This approach with his actors which encourages them to do what they believe they would do in a scene (even if slightly different from the script) reaps rewards as the short film was also selected for the 21st D.C. Asian Pacific American Film Festival and selected for the 10th D.C. South Asian Film Festival.
The director is working on a new film, Johnny & The Golden Gifts about a young boy in Washington D.C, whose life spirals out of control because of a personal tragedy. The story explores themes of forgiveness as a solution to ongoing challenges in modern American Society.
Considered both a Director and Screenwriter, Ahmed also wrote, Lost in DC, about a Pakistani man who visits Washington, D.C. and runs into a former high school friend. The two men spend the next several days in each other’s company, learning more about the other’s path in life following their school days. The script is currently a finalist at the 52nd Nashville Film Festival, an Academy Award Qualifying Film Festival.
New York Film Academy congratulates Bob Ahmed for his success and looks forward to the upcoming Johnny & The Golden Gifts.