Fathia Absie didn’t wear a hijab when she first moved to Minnesota about five years ago. The decision to wear one was born out of necessity when she started losing hair from the stress of living in a new environment, she said.
“For the first time, I had people calling me names just walking by, for no reason at all, and the only reason I could come up with is that I looked different and was wearing a hijab. It made me feel very sad,” Absie said.
The Eden Prairie filmmaker is sharing the message that people have more in common than they realize.
Absie’s 56-minute film about a relationship between a white man and a Somali-American woman is a response to something she has noticed in her new home.
“I still feel that Somali-Americans and fellow Minnesotans share the same space but could not be further apart. There’s no relationship, so I thought there was a dialogue missing,” said Absie, who wrote, directed and stars in the film.
She calls her movie a “very simple story.”
“The minute we start sharing our stories we realize we are so close, so similar and everything else fades away,” Absie said.
In “The Lobby,” which premiered at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival in April, a man finds himself intrigued by a woman wearing a hijab in a hotel lobby.
They begin to talk and a relationship forms.
The film might seem like a departure from Absie’s previous work at Washington D.C.
-based Voice of America, where she made a documentary about Somali youth radicalization and indoctrination.But it was driven, Absie said, by the same desire to tell Somali stories and create conversations.
“We are a culture of storytellers,” Absie said. “First and foremost we are an oral society … they say ‘tell me something. …’ Fiction is a powerful tool.”
But the film isn’t just for Absie’s Somali community. She said she hopes her fellow Minnesotans come out to support her too.
“It made sense that it would be a story about two cultures that didn’t know that much about each other but shared the same community,” Absie said.
Katie Kather can be reached at 651-228-5006. Follow her at twitter.com/ktkather.
What: “The Lobby”
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday
Where: Lagoon Cinema, 1320 Lagoon Ave., Minneapolis