Since 1988, Filmmaker Magazine has published the year’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film,” listing the most promising film directors, actors, technical staffers and documentarians, animators and more. This year’s selection includes filmmaker Nijla Mu’min, whose  debut feature, Jinn, finishes postproduction and will head out on the festival circuit over the next few months.

Jinn is Mu’min’s coming of age story about, a 17 year old carefree black girl named Summer whose world is turned upside down when her mother Jade abruptly converts to Islam and becomes a different person which prompts Summer to reevaluate her own life and identity.  The film is loosely based on the filmmaker’s Black and half-Islamic upbringing and serves as a timely, fresh look at identity, Islam, and first love in contemporary Los Angeles, and according to Filmmaker Magazine, early footage demonstrates Mu’min’s sure direction of her actors and ability to depict their teen world with real charm and insight.  The film stars Simone Missick (Luke Cage), Zoe Renee (The Quad) as Summer, Hisham Tawfiq (The Blacklist), Kelly Jenrette (Grandfathered, Pitch), Kelvin Harrison , Jr. (Mudbound), and Dorian Missick (Big Words, Monster).

“There’s a mainstream narrative about Islam in the media in this country,” Mu’min shares, “and with this film I’m trying to get away from that and show what it means to be curious or fascinated, or to question your identity.” And, she says, referencing another passion — photography — “I’m trying to take risks with my filmmaking and be aware of the impact images can have on a person.” 

Getting Jinn from script to screen required persistence and perseverance as Mu’min quit three jobs in New York and moved back to L.A., only to receive the news that her financing fell through. Despite this setback, Mu’min was able to work with a team of dedicated producers and production companies, including basketball player Elton Brand, Tina Mabry’s company Morgan’s Mark, and the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, a nonprofit with Russell Simmons as its chair — to raise the necessary funds to push the film forward.

Mu’min is a graduate of UC Berkeley, and attended Howard University’s MFA film program.  She was a 2013 dual-degree graduate of CalArts’ MFA programs in Film Directing and Creative Writing, and was the recipient of a Panavision New Filmmaker Camera Package. Her short films have screened in festivals across the country, and she was the winner of a 2014 Best Screenplay Award from BET for her script, Noor.

We are excited to see what’s in store for this up and coming filmmaker as she is well on her way to becoming a powerhouse director! Congrats to Nijla Mu’min on this major accomplishment!

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About The Author

Founder, HBR Media

K. Nicole Mills is the Founder of HBR Media. She transitioned from Wall Street to television and film development, and has worked at NBCUniversal, Universal Pictures, and Showtime Networks. She currently develops digital programming for premium networks. Reach out anytime! info@hbrmedia.org

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