Sharing her voice from across the globe, allow me to introduce you to Rayika Choudri, an accomplished writer and director from Karachi, Pakistan.

Choudri attributes her success to the support of family and friends, including her father whom she describes as having had a great influence in shaping her outlook. She holds her father in the highest esteem and values his approach with her, as he never discouraged her from speaking her mind and encouraged her to question the world around her. His open mindedness meant that Rayika could talk to her father about anything, giving her the freedom to grow into the woman she is today.

In 2015, Rayika’s film entitled, Baat Cheet, was featured at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. Her joy in telling stories through film comes from her great love of writing.

What has been your greatest obstacle in life and how do/did you navigate it?

One of the greatest obstacles in my life has been a desire for perfection combined with a tendency to be very self-critical. It can be a stifling combination, but I’m happy to say that I’ve become much better over the years at not taking myself so seriously.

   

How did you choose your career path?

I’ve always loved writing stories and film and television production just feels like a natural extension of that for me. Law was also an area of interest when I was younger and I chose to study it at university. As an undergraduate degree, I thought it might be more valuable, no matter what I decided to do later. I’m glad I made that choice – law was a fascinating subject and I believe it’s helped me to think more rigorously about issues.

    

You wrote, produced and directed a Pakistani short film titled Baat Cheet, that was featured in the Short Film Corner at The 68th Annual 2015 Cannes Film Festival. {Congratulations!} The film is about two friends living in Karachi who connect and catch up on recent events in each other’s lives. Their conversation winds through various accounts, depicting the ways in which people cope with the challenges of ordinary life. What inspired this story?

People are such emotional creatures, that smaller moments—ones that are not about death or great tragedy—can nonetheless throw us completely off balance. I was thinking about the power of those moments, how they can sometimes just creep up on us and how we deal with them. The coping mechanisms that we engage (e.g. looking to others for support, finding things to laugh about, ascribing meaning to things that may or may not have any to begin with) all combine to form a picture of human nature that I wanted to try and capture.

    

How does a film get chosen to be in the Cannes Film Festival?

The Short Film Corner is different from the competitive Official Selection category. It’s a wide and embracing showcase of short films from around the world that accepts films on the basis of general professional standards. It allowed us access to the festival and to its adjacent film market, which is one of the largest in the world. On the whole, it was a great networking and learning opportunity.

We were also part of the Official Selection at the Bluestocking Film Series 2015, held in Portland Maine over the summer. To be considered for this festival, films have to pass the Bechdel Test i.e. they must feature at least two named female characters who talk to each other about something other than a man. I was very excited to be part of it and what it stands for – that is, promoting the on-screen representation of complex, fully developed female characters and female relationships, thereby promoting gender equality in film.

    

What dreams and/or goals have inspired your success?

Stories can reassure, challenge and inspire compassion in people. I want to tell stories that have that effect.

    

What has been your greatest life lesson learned so far?

Question everything. Engage with many points of view. Don’t be afraid to change your mind.

    

What is your best advice on how to live a graceful life?

I believe a graceful life emerges from choosing the kind response in any given situation and from being at peace with oneself.


j. jane side notes:

Thanks to my dear friend, Amy. Without your friendly demeanor and  keen sense, I would not have met this inspiring woman who lives halfway around the world. I am lucky to know you both.