New York Film Academy Australia will be present at the prestigious Gold Coast Student Excellence Awards. The awards celebrate students that make significant contributions to the Gold Coast community through visual and performing arts, as well as charitable initiatives. Previous winners have served as activists and volunteers for impressive causes that range from organizing wide-scale, on-campus student mental health events to tackling health inequalities in diverse populations.
Nominee & NYFA Student Aqeedat Chishti Strives to be ‘The Voice of the Oppressed’
Aqeedat Chishti, a student of CUA521020 Diploma of Screen and Media in Filmmaking at NYFA Australia, was nominated for ‘Excellence in Fostering Creative Arts.’ The category recognises a Gold Coast student who mastered an art form, initiated an arts initiative for the community’s benefit, or made a significant contribution as a champion of the community in the arts. The Awards, presented by Study Gold Coast and endorsed by the Office of the Mayor of the Gold Coast, will announce the winners on Friday 11 November 2022 during a gala that celebrates the end of the academic year.
The Pakistan-born filmmaker won second prize at the National Amateur Short Film Festival with a film she created with her sister and mother, working with no camera and no budget. As a winner, she received a scholarship to join other aspiring filmmakers at NYFA Australia. Following a promise to follow in the footsteps of her father and grandfather, both investigative journalists in Pakistan, Chishti strives to speak on behalf of underrepresented people. She studies filmmaking to help materialize this vision.
Chishti was nominated by NYFA Australia for the Gold Coast Student Excellence Awards based on her exciting projects currently in production and pre-production. To learn more about her background, aspirations, and nomination, the team at NYFA Australia sat down with the filmmaker for a one-on-one Q&A.
Q&A With Filmmaker Aqeedat Chishti
NYFA Australia: Tell us about yourself! What is your background, and what brought you to New York Film Academy Australia?
Aqeedat Chishti (AC): I am a 22-year-old aspiring filmmaker from Lahore, Pakistan. I’ve been fond of writing and have become submerged in art. My journey to New York Film Academy Australia has been surreal and competitive. During my creative journey, I came across the National Amateur Short Film Festival in 2021, which offered a national and international platform for filmmakers.
I submitted my film Pathani, co-written and directed by my sister Ibadat Chishti and won second among 1,500 entries from over 72 universities in Pakistan. As a result, I received a scholarship to study filmmaking at NYFA Australia.
Watch the short film Pathani co-written and directed by Aqeedat Chishti and Ibadat Chishti:
NYFA Australia: How did you decide on filmmaking as your focus?
AC: Since childhood, I’ve observed stories. My father was a crime reporting journalist who followed his father to make a difference in Pakistan’s investigative journalism realm.
It was phenomenal to me the impact of storytelling in newspapers. My father always said it was not a job but a lifestyle like the air you breathe. Life brought me closer to the screen, and I remember participating in a documentary while I was seventeen. That experience changed my life.
That’s when I realized the power storytelling holds. Stories we tell can impact the lives of characters and the audience. I decided to focus on filmmaking after winning second in the National Amateur Short Film Festival in 2021. I took a leap of faith with a zest to get one eye behind the screen.
NYFA Australia: Tell us about your short film Pathani.
AC: My short film Pathani is a real story of a girl living in a small Pakistani village. She is a live-hearted girl who reveals her hometown and breaks through the camera while conversing with the audience. She expresses herself to the audience and shares her background, culture, and traditions.
The girl breaks the stereotype of a local, rural girl, and the film starts and ends with a fierce message. Pathani was shot in first-person POV, allowing the audience to see Pathani’s experiences first-hand. Pathani represents innocence, compassion, and fierceness in a girl who belongs to a faraway land. Pathani is a journey and feeling.
NYFA Australia: What inspired you to create Pathani?
AC: I created Pathani with my twin sister, Ibadat Chishti, and our mother. We borrowed a camera from my friend and filmed with zero budget. I believe my lens is an empty slate on which the character can write themself.
Pathani represents the underrepresented women who live in remote areas of Pakistan. It was essential to give her platform and space to bring forth a character rarely seen on screens. The film gives her a chance to converse with people outside her borders. Pathani comes from the inspiration of wanting to be heard, a need that resides in everyone.
NYFA Australia: What did you learn at NYFA Australia that you apply to your work?
AC: I’ve learnt how to turn my visions into reality. The hands-on experience of filmmaking played a role in my creation of characters. NYFA Australia taught me professionalism and a blueprint to make impactful films. Like Pathani, I envision other stories, and NYFA Australia teaches me industry skills to help me build other films. Studying is like being in a laboratory and formulating story elements that can reach people’s hearts.
NYFA Australia: How did you react when you learned NYFA Australia nominated you for the Gold Coast Student Excellence Award?
AC: I was thrilled and hoped my nomination would help pave the way for a young girl, sitting in a rickshaw, gazing at the world, to tell her story. I feel humbled and thank NYFA Australia for providing me with this opportunity.
NYFA Australia: Are you working on other projects?
AC: I’m currently writing scripts, working on a short film, including a music video project, and also working on a documentary about people struggling with homelessness. The documentary discusses the conscious movement and healing of people.
NYFA Australia: What advice would you share with other students at NYFA Australia?
AC: Don’t let the words of people affect you. The character you’ve written could become paramount, or perhaps your dialogue needs to be heard by a viewer. Believe in your story and your characters because they are important.
Cinema is an art, and the audience is full of people who feel and have their desires. Keep jotting down your visions and believing in yourself. Believe in the character you’ve created, and continue to work toward bringing your vision to reality. It is you who has the power to change your state of mind.
We all came [to NYFA Australia] with dreams and hopes, leaving our homes and families to find and create stories. Meeting creators here has been a phenomenal experience. There are talented people here and I hope to continue to create impactful art to make a difference.