Q&A with Three Veils’ Angela Zahra
Angela Zahra, who plays devout Amira in Three Veils, was born in the UK but raised in Syria. She studied classical piano and acting and has had a prolific career in Syria before moving to the UK with her husband.
At the New York City International Film Festival, Zahra won “Best Lead Actress” for her role in Three Veils. We were fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to ask this accomplished actress some questions about her role and the film in general.
Q: Amira’s story is, I think, something most audiences have never seen. What was it that drew you to the part, and what do you hope Amira’s story communicated?
A: Amira’s story presented truthfully the struggle of a lot of young women, and even men, in her situation who are having a hard time finding their voice in a world where traditions are so dominant in ones life. This is especially true for the LGBT community in the Middle East that suffers not only from the personal struggle in dealing with their true emotions, but also from fear of society backlash. I really wanted to portray this struggle and do my best in helping this community to at least find a reflection of themselves in Amira’s character. I hope that I was able to communicate this truth and that no matter if you are gay or straight, whatever decisions any woman, or man, makes, should be their own.
Q: Which of the three characters in Three Veils do you think is the easiest to relate to?
A: I don’t think there is one easier to relate to than the other. I think they are all very beautiful and complex characters that any woman can find something in each one that relates to her own life. And even though the three girls in the movie were Muslim, yet I believe that any woman from any culture can relate to them. In fact, in the Q/As after the screenings, we had a lot of non-Muslim women make this exact comment. Some of the audiences even saw themselves in the characters of the parents and related to the generational differences that this film also reflects upon. This is all of course because the characters were written honestly and truthfully.
Q: Have you experienced any disapproval for your portrayal of a devoutly religious woman who is attracted to other women (and doesn’t condemn that in herself)?
A: Of course, we all had many horrible things written about us. You just have to go to Youtube and see some of the comments on the trailer. Most of the negative ones are from people who haven’t even seen the film but rather base their judgment on the trailer and the idea of portraying a Muslim lesbian. Many commented that Lesbians don’t even exist in the Muslim world, which of course is not true, or some people thought that the film is trying to negatively portray Islam, In fact, the film does the opposite and this film is very kind and balanced when it comes to the religion itself and I wish people would see the film before commenting. Interestingly enough, we found a lot of negativity from people who expected this film to a be a negative commentary on the religion and it is not of course so they get upset. On the other hand, I also found a lot of love and support from people who really appreciated this portrayal and to me that negates all the negativity out there and makes me believe that what we did in this film was the right thing.
Q: There is a lot of discussion about the nature of Amira’s and Nikki’s friendship/relationship and whether it was healthy or damaging. What’s your take on that?
A: Life is full of moments that may seem unhealthy or even bad, but I think, just like in real life, this was an experience that added a dimension to these women’s lives and enabled them to make their own decisions. That is how I see life, as a series of fleeting moments, whether good or bad, that end up shaping our path ahead of us and ultimately make us who we are as humans. We shouldn’t dwell on these moments or our lives won’t move forward, but rather learn from them and carry on and I think that is what Amira and Nikki did. Whether it was the beautiful tender moments between them or the heartbreaking ones, these moments helped them discover themselves and what they wanted from life.