The fourth film in our Resilience Film Series, Time for Ilhan, tells the story of Ilhan Omar, the first Somali-American woman elected to the U.S. political office.  Directed by Norah Shapiro, this acclaimed documentary shows its viewers the obstacles involved in the election process, especially for the traditionally underrepresented. It will be shown Monday Oct. 15th, at 7 pm in Miller Auditorium (Stark 103) with free admission and with an appearance by our special guest, the film’s producer, Chris Newberry, who will join us for a Q&A session following.

Time for Ilhan has been screened at a number of festivals before its release in September of 2018, including the prestigious Telluride Mountainfilm Film Festival, where I and several of my WSU Film Studies colleagues saw it on our travel study in May.  Everyone who watched the film then spoke highly of the documentary for its inspiring story and its distinctive qualities.  We were all impressed by Ilhan Omar as a candidate and by the film’s clear presentation of the complex primary process.

The director, Norah Shapiro, gave up her career as a public defender to become a documentary filmmaker and has directed three full-length films since pursuing this career. With producer Chris Newberry, she is currently working on a documentary about the disappearance of Jacob Wetterling.

Ilhan Omar and Director Norah Shapiro

Time for Ilhan received the award for the HBO Audience Award and the Best Documentary Feature Film at the 2018 Provincetown International Film Festival and is currently continuing a run on the festival circuit.  Thanks to the generosity of our friends and partners at the Frozen River Film Festival, we consider ourselves lucky to be able to bring this inspiring story to Winona.

Ilhan Omar uses her strong voice and influence to gain the trust of the people

As a Somali-American Muslim woman, Ilhan Omar defies public opinion and works to represent those like her, and others, in her MInneapolis district, one that has skewed heavily Democratic for decades. The film starts with Ilhan and her campaign crew as they work to get her name out into the public. She specifically works to make her name known to college students at the University of Minnesota. She wants young adults to use their power when it comes to voting and she wants them to work to get their opinions heard. Her campaign process was long and difficult, as it was for her opposing candidates, but this did not discourage her from working day and night. The list of difficulties she faced during this process–from questions about her marital status to the legality of her citizenship–did not deter or dispirit her.  In this sense, just like our prior films Resilience, Moonlight, and Eighth Grade, Time for Ilhan is a story about facing adversity with resilience.

Ilhan at the Women’s March with her supporters

Ilhan Omar is portrayed in multiple ways throughout the film. She is shown to be loving when she interacts with her children and her husband. She is shown to be determined when she attends campaigning events. Most importantly, she is shown to be inspiring when she speaks with people who want to get their opinions heard.

Ilhan with her daughter

Unlike Resilience, Moonlight, and Eighth Grade, this documentary is less focused on trauma and toxic stress. Time for Ilhan is more about the resilience Ilhan displays throughout the election process than it is about anything else, making her resilience something for all of us to be inspired by. As a Somali woman, she was faced with stereotyping, prejudice, and overt racism on a number of occasions.

Ilhan provides hope for a more diverse representation in politics

When we first saw Time for Ilhan at Mountainfilm, we were struck by its power for a number of reasons.  The resilience this powerful woman shows throughout the documentary is immense. Viewers are able to see what her life is really like outside of the campaigning and her day to day stress. Most importantly of all, this film hits close to home, literally, with its setting so close to us in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This recognition of location makes the film feel even more realistic for us Midwesterners and it shows that hard-working, inspiring leaders can appear from anywhere, even our nearby neighborhoods.

Time for Ilhan is showing on Monday, October 15, 2018 at 7 pm in Miller Auditorium (Stark 103) on the Winona State University Campus. Admission is free and open to all. Hope to see you there!