A Muslim American teenager struggles to reconcile desire with family obligations.
Striking the chords of taboo storytelling, ‘Hala’ is an inspiring story about a sixteen-year old Muslim teenager with a rich and complex inner world, which serves as an escape from her socially conservative home. When she meets Jesse, a boy from the skate park, she experiences a real and immediate connection.
Hala is inspired by my own coming-of-age. As I entered my teen years, I drifted from my parents; I began to question the faith and principles with which I had been raised. I wasn’t comfortable pretending to be one person at home and another at school. Managing two very different and separate existences became an impossible task. Eventually, they collided, and not without consequences. I was discovering who I was and what I cared about, but the process was not an easy one. I had to hide a lot from my family. I was raised in a socially conservative household, one in which sex was never discussed. I’m not even sure the word was ever spoken out loud in my house. Hala was written as a way to explore the anxiety of adulthood that I personally experienced.
Minhal scripted ‘Hala’ using her experience of growing up as a first-generation Muslim American has shaped the script, as well as the experiences of other Muslim American girls she knew growing up. While it’s not autobiographical and never had to wear a hijab herself, Minhal wanted to tell a coming-of-age story and this was the story that she knew the best and was most fascinated by.
As filmmakers, we shouldn’t just chase the stories that we think are interesting, but the ones that we have a distinctive take on. I asked myself an honest question: “Is there a story that only you can tell?” The answer was Hala.