Fresno State showcases film on first Somali Muslim U.S. Congresswoman


Fresno State CineCulture presented the film “Time for Ilhan,” a documentary about Ilhan Omar, the first Somali Muslim woman elected to the U.S. Congress, to students and community members on March 1.

In the film, Omar said that she ran for office because she wanted to use her voice to represent part of America.

“This idea of being part of something so small but meaningful, has always been embedded in me,” she said.  

Omar was elected in 2018 to represent Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District. Before running for Congress, she served in the Minnesota House of Representatives.

Norah Shapiro, who directed the film, told the audience that a friend urged her to talk to Omar.

“When I met Ilhan Omar, I knew that following her was going to provide a vehicle for exploring a lot of really important issues in our American democracy,” Shapiro said. “I also knew she was inherently a star, whether or not she won that particular race.”

Shapiro said that Omar’s background is not a barrier but an asset. “It’s part of who she authentically is,” Shapiro said. “[This] is a really important thing for [the] audience, in particular for young girls of color, young women of color, young men of color, immigrants, new Americans to see. It’s the whole idea of ‘if you see it, you can dream it.’ ”

The film spent time discussing Omar’s efforts to fight for individuals and communities she felt were underrepresented in America.

“Right now, we have an ability to exercise our right that a lot of our parents did not have, our right to have a voice in this country,” Omar said in the film.

After the film finished, the audience welcomed Shapiro to the front of the room for a discussion.

During the discussion, an audience member told Shapiro, “I am glad you made this film.”

The public will have the chance to see Omar’s story when the film becomes available on Video On Demand, iTunes, Google Play and Amazon in about a week, Shapiro said.

Dr. Mary Husain, instructor and club adviser of CineCulture, said that the “film has an amazing way to look at issues that affect our local, national, international communities.”

Linda Hernandez, a Fresno State alumni, said that she always tries to attend CineCulture events.

The stories that “these films [demonstrate are] issues that affect women, politics, immigrants,” said Hernandez. “I try not to miss a film here because they are documentary films that you are not going to see anywhere else.”

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