A LaGuardia Community College student recently won a national multimedia competition for his original short film that poignantly describes the bigotry he experienced in his native Bangladesh and his new home, America, after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attac
Rashid Mamun, a media studies major, was the first-place winner in the film category of the “America, My Home” student essay and film contest sponsored by the Public Broadcasting Service. The competition was designed to encourage immigrant students from across the country to share their personal experiences in the United States in written, audio or video essays.
“Rashid’s entry was very compelling,” said Susan Kim, director of Local Outreach for WNET/Thirteen, a PBS affiliate that collaborated with the college in the competition. “He captured his experience and sense of alienation as part of a minority in an America still coming to grips with diversity.”
In his two-minute film, “My Journey Home,” the young filmmaker, who resides in Astoria, sits in front of the camera and candidly describes the ostracism he experienced as a Muslim living in America after Sept. 11. “People called me ‘Muslim terrorist,’ ‘Taliban,’” he admitted as a graphic clip of the second plane colliding into the building appears on the screen.
When the planes struck the World Trade Center, he asserted that his reaction to the horrific events was the same as every American’s. “I felt guilty knowing that someone of my own religion did it. I felt the same grief Americans felt,” he said.
But Mamun noted that the most frustrating experience occurred the following summer when he returned to Bangladesh at a time when there was heightened anti-American sentiment over the U.S. invasion of Iraq. “There I was called an American,” he said. “It was as if I was the guy who started the war.”
After describing these two painful experiences, Rashid looks into the camera and asks, “Who am I?” The camera then stops rolling.
For the film major, who spent 20 painstaking hours filming, writing, shooting and editing his video, the competition provided a creative outlet to tell his story, in particular, and the immigrant story, in general. “Every immigrant feels like me,” he said of the isolation many American immigrants go through because their lives straddle two distinct cultures.
Through a collaboration between the college and WNET/Thirteen, a PBS station, Rashid and 13 of his classmates were able to submit stories to the PBS multimedia competition. Salina Islam, who is also from Bangladesh, wrote an essay that won a local prize. In her piece, she expresses her gratitude for the opportunity to receive an education in America.
Education, particularly a degree in filmmaking, is what motivated Mamun to return to the United States in 2002 and enroll at LaGuardia, where he is working toward that goal. He will graduate this spring and will enter Hunter College’s film program in the fall.
One of his long-term goals is to expand the theme of his powerful, two-minute video into a full-length documentary. “In the media there is a lot of stereotyping. I want to make a video that will dispel stereotypes and foster more understanding among different ethnic groups.”