Forest Gate schoolgirls star in documentary about Muslim teenagers

Forest Gate Girls is a new half hour documentary.

Forest Gate Girls is a new half hour documentary. - Credit: Tariq Elmeri

An American filmmaker has made a short film exploring the lives of students at a Muslim all girls’ school in Forest Gate.

Muslim director Tariq Elmeri wanted to know what it means to be a teenage Muslim today and in seeking an answer he was drawn to the Quwwat-Ul-Islam Girls’ school in Chaucer Road.

The half hour documentary, called Forest Gate Girls, follows a group of year 10 students during their summer term, filming at the school over three months last year .

Tariq, 33, said: “The piece set out to be about how the girls see themselves and how they think the world sees them. [Muslims] are portrayed as violent or terrorists, you can’t escape these.

“In their mind they are no different than any other students.

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Tariq, who was born stateside but moved to the UK two years ago, says the long filming process was necessary for people to get used to the camera being around.

“The first few weeks were difficult for them,” he said. “Imagine a film crew – we were hard not to notice.”

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He added that as the students got used to them it helped build a bond of trust will the girls, saying: “I felt we were there to champion their voice.

“You get a longer conversation when you are there a longer time, that opened up the conversation and they felt comfortable.”

Tariq, who lives in Islington with his wife, Elham, a human rights lawyer and their eight-month-old daughter Joud.

He says the process of making the film allowed him to gain a real insight into the developing minds of a group of intelligent, articulate and reflective teenage girls.

He said: “I thought I would find quite submissive students who would do as they were told, but they are very questioning and very demanding and very inquisitive.”

Tariq made the documentary as part of his Masters in Documentary Directing course at the National Film and Television School in Buckinghamshire.

He says editing was crucial to the film’s development, adding: “This is where the story takes shape through different, long and crucial stages.”

Tariq is currently submitting the documentary into international film festivals. He also hopes it will be broadcast on UK television in the near future.

Click here to see a trailer for the film.

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