Being Muslim in a non-Muslim community comes with its own set of restraints—and when you’re both a woman and Muslim, the challenges you face multiply, particularly if you’re veiled.
So now imagine being a female, visibly Muslim Arab boxer living in Australia – you can envision that odds are naturally stacked against you.
That’s precisely the case for Rahma Solimon, a 16-year-old Egyptian-Australian who, despite societal constraints, decided to take up the noble sport.
Perhaps due to a shared experience, Tig Terera—a Zimbabwe-born young film director who was raised in Australia—recognized Solimon’s struggles and decided she would be the subject of his latest film.
“I try to make socially conscious films that promote multiculturalism and diversity,” he told MILLE. And with this project, that’s exactly what he’s doing. He collaborated with cinematographer Jessie Lane to create the short film, entitled it Solibet – a word that Solimon invented with her brother that currently serves as the young boxer’s Instagram handle.
The film cleverly captures the essence of Solimon, taking the viewer for a ride, bouncing back and forth between the identity crisis imposed upon her, how she’s impressively taken ownership of who she is, and everyday human struggles—like the fear of discovering a white strand of hair at just 16-years-old.
It quickly becomes very clear that Solimon was in fact Terera’s perfect subject, so we caught up with the young director to chat about his project, why he chose to feature Rahma, and what he hopes people take away from the film.
How did you get the idea for the film?
The idea came from a short film treatment I had written featuring a boxer and evolved as I collaborated with Jesse and Rahma.
What inspired the project?
I am inspired by people who do not fit into a box, particularly those who society believes should be quiet and tame. After seeing a short Instagram video of Rahma boxing in the gym, I knew she would be the perfect subject.
What was the intention behind making the film?
The intention of the film was to create crisp imagery paired with Jesse Lane’s experimental editing. Furthermore, the intention of Solibet was to explore aggression, construct something confronting and make it beautiful. We’re in quite a genre-less time and I think Solibet blurs the lines between experimentalism, short film and mini-documentary styles.
Why do you think there’s an impending identity crisis when you grow up as a dual national/ immigrant child?
I can only speak for myself, but personally I have dealt with the identity struggle of not being African enough around fellow African family members and friends, but also being too African around Westerners. It is this grey area that promotes this identity struggle in immigrant children and particularly those that are quite different to their parents/ hold alternative views.
If you had to choose one thing for people to take away from your film, what would it be?
That Rahma is a badass and that open mindedness leads to a better happier society.
Photo courtesy of @ginanero