Filmmaker Interview with Sonia Nassery Cole

Filmmaker Interview by: Jason Knight

Set Photo from I Am You showing filmmakers.

For those who have not seen it yet, what is I Am You about?

I Am You is based on the true story of Afghan refugees, their will to survive, and the dramatic conditions they endure on their journeys. We follow Massoud, a young man, who embarks on a perilous migration from Afghanistan through the Middle East and Europe accompanied by a pregnant doctor and a wise elder. After witnessing his father’s murder at the hands of ISIS, Massoud vows to honor his father’s wish to secure a safe future for his family away from the tyranny of the Taliban and ISIS.

The current refugee crisis is the largest since WWII; I Am You is an evocative depiction of the resilience of those forced to flee their countries and overcome trauma. 

Set Photo from I Am You showing filmmaker.

What motivated you to do this film?

There is massive confusion about the difference between migration and refugees. Immigrants leave their country for a better life. Refugees leave their country because they have no choice. They take a chance that they may survive. I myself am a refugee and came to this country at the age of fifteen. For this reason, my life is dedicated to speaking for the voiceless refugees. This is a film created from their perspective. The background to the film is that I received messages on Facebook from a young man recounting his story about his journey to freedom. It evoked so much emotion that I agreed to tell his story.

Set Photo from I Am You showing filmmaker.

What did you find most challenging about the experience and how would you describe the main cast? What was it like working with them?

The main cast were a great group of super talented actors, very hard working and dedicated. I Am You was shot primarily in the Afghan language, Dari, with English subtitles.  The most challenging experience was actually the language barrier. The main cast was made up of both Afghan and Turkish actors. However, the Turkish actors did not speak English and I did not speak Turkish. It was incredibly challenging to direct and communicate my vision, even with the help of a translator. Moreover, I had to coach the Turkish actors on their Dari accents so that they sounded as native Afghans.

Poster for I Am You showing protagonist.

What do you like most about filmmaking?

I love telling stories, I am a storyteller. I believe the most powerful medium to communicate a mission to others is through film. My first film, The Breadwinner, was instrumental in getting the Stinger missile approved by showing the plight of Afghanistan to the Senate and Congress. As a filmmaker, I have been able to channel my passion to spread awareness about the injustices in my country through documentaries and film.  I can give a voice to the voiceless refugees.

What are your plans for the future?

I have already started working on a streaming series that would be perfect for either Netflix or HBO. Each episode is based on a different migrant story and the reason these individuals fled their country for America.

I am also very excited about my first mainstream feature film which is a romantic comedy.  Not only because I am shooting it in New York which is much easier than in a war torn country! The story takes place during the start of the pandemic when two neighbors that strongly disliked each other pre-Covid fall in love when sheltering at home. It will be casted with top Hollywood lead actors.