EMPOWERED MADAMES: KHUSHNUDA SHUKUROVA, A VERY PROMISING DIRECTOR IN THE FILM MAKING INDUSTRY
Updated: May 18
Through my work as a portrait photographer between Paris and New York,
I get to meet amazing personalities, women, and men.
Through the recent challenging times (covid19 NYC lockdown) it struck me that what I MISS the most, and so what drives me to wake up in the morning, is to meet the people I photograph, get to know their stories to create those soulful portraits of them.
After a photoshoot, I am always literally 'high' from all the exchange of energy
and SUPER inspiring discussions that just happened in the studio.
So I decided to share all that stimulation with you
through the blog series "Empowered Madames" as... the saying goes:
"Empowered women empower women".
WHO IS KHUSHNUDA SHUKUROVA?
The first thing you notice when you meet Kushnuda is her big smile and her very vibrant energy. She doesn't even have to speak, you feel positivity just looking at her.
And when she starts to speak, you hear a beautiful accent that transports you far away in a foreign land and that's when you know she has some stories to tell... and that's what drives her: telling stories through films. Being a film Director is where she feels the most alive, where she senses her true purpose.
She is originally from Tadjikistan, in Central Asia. Take a moment to look at Google Images, that will make you feel eager for some beautiful adventures and road trips!
She moved in the US thanks to a scholarship to pursue her dream to study visual arts, first in Montana et then in New York City.
She has held several leading roles as editor for The National Geographic Society in Washington DC and then for her first feature narrative Antarctica, which was produced by Breaker and directed by Keith Bearden. She has directed and produced award-winning short narrative and documentary films, which have screened in multiple film festivals, and some of which have also aired on television (BBC)
She then finished her short film, Detained for which she received Best Female Director award at Montana International Film Festival in 2019.
This film was also selected for many different festivals: Woodstock Film Festival, Festival Angealica and an Oscar Qualifying Reel Sisters Film Festival, Julien Dubuque International Film Festival, No Limits New York, New FilmmakersNY, Oscar Qualifying Athens International Film Festival, and Sedona Film Festival.
KHUSHNUDA AWARD WINNING SHORT MOVIE: "DETAINED"
Synopsis: Two Syrian refugee siblings receive official legal documents to permanently join their father in the United States. However, when the plane lands in JFK, they are taken into custody for interrogation by Custom and Border Police.
As it is a movie still competing in many different film festivals, it can not be streamed yet, but here is the trailer.
This is not a light topic to depict, but like many of the Empowered Madames I got the change to work with and photograph, under the positive energy, you often find in these women a deeper mission and determination.
Khushnuda shares more personal details on what it takes on an everyday basis and also what are her tricks to cheer up when some days feel harder than others!
THROUGHOUT YOUR LIFE & CAREER, HOW DID YOU PUSH PAST FEAR?
WHAT WAS THAT FEAR?
"Throughout my career, I often doubted myself, whether I have what it takes to become a film director. It’s one thing to dream about it but it’s totally different to actually do it.
So I did put it aside until I got an opportunity to finally make it, I found enough courage and told myself it’s now or never. I think I was afraid of the failure. But if you don’t try then how would you know? So, I just did it."
WHAT WAS SOMETHING THAT YOU NEVER THOUGHT YOURSELF ABLE TO ACCOMPLISH AND THAT YOU DID ANYWAY?
" To write and direct a film was something I thought I probably wouldn’t be able to do because Tajikistan, where I am from, we didn’t have film school.
So, if I needed to pursue filmmaking I had to look into a different country. When I got that great opportunity to come to study in the United States with a scholarship, I then had my hopes up and knew that was what I really wanted to do. Call me a dreamer but I think it was meant to be."
FOR SOMEONE FEELING LOST IN THEIR CAREER/LIFE CHOICES AND WHO DO NOT REALLY KNOW WHAT’S THEIR NEXT STEP IS, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU HAVE?
"Sometimes, there are still moments where I find myself a bit lost ... but maybe it's not about being lost but about being patient. Along the way, it is important so important to be patient and not get frustrated. Things don’t happen overnight. Always, think, and stay positive because it’s so easy to fall into despair. My approach to life helped me so far, I am a dreamer. I dream and make sure to work toward my dream."
DO YOU HAVE MORNINGS WHEN YOU FEEL UNINSPIRED AND TIRED?
WHAT DO YOU DO TO GET BACK YOUR ENERGY & DRIVE?
"I do have mornings when I don’t want to edit or write or even direct. But then I have learned to take that as a sign that I need a break to get perspective. And so I often watch a movie.
Films are like an escape from your reality. They inspire me and move me. Then, I realize how much I want to do that to someone else. And it gives me back the energy to continue what I wanted to do, directing."
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE SELF CARE ACTIVITY?
"Besides films, music, poetry, and a nice walk in the park inspire me too. Not only to do what I want but also to love life in general. "
IT IS SAID THAT THERE IS OFTEN A POINT IN LIFE WHERE YOU KNOW THAT WHAT YOU ARE DOING IS WHAT WAS MEANT FOR YOU.
HAVE YOU HAD THAT MOMENT YET AND WHEN WAS IT?
"I want to believe making films is something meant for me. I really do. I am not a famous filmmaker YET but it’s the only thing that truly excites me. I just want to keep doing it."
WHAT ARE YOUR BIGGEST CAREER / LIFE HIGHLIGHT / ACCOMPLISHMENT SO FAR
"When I received the award for the Best Female Director last year for my short Detained.
But I still have a lot more I want to accomplish in my life. "
📚 THE MOST INSPIRING BOOK?
“The Forty Rules of Love” by Elif Shafak. I read it twice, it’s one of the most beautiful novels.
I am also a huge fan of JK Rowling and Jane Austin. I think women authors are not given credit they deserve. I love reading books written by women, it offers a different perspective on life. I guess, what I am trying to say, is they know my world and describe it well.
💃🏻 FAVORITE MUSIC, SONG TO CHEER YOU UP
"When I feel down I listen to either classical music or someone like Carla Bruni." (French singers seem popular among the Empowered Madames !)
"And sometimes I dance, it is like therapy."
(Alexandra Fine, another Empowered Madame, is also a fan of dancing to get herself back to happy mood !)
🍿 FAVORITE MOVIE TO TRIGGER SOME GRIT IN YOU
"There are obviously so many films that I love and all of them inspire me in one or another way. The one that pops up on my mind right now is Little Miss Sunshine.
✨ YOUR FAVORITE QUOTE
I love Rumi and every of his quote but this quote is my favorite from him:
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
WHERE CAN YOU CONNECT WITH KHUSHNUDA
WANT TO MEET OTHER EMPOWERED MADAMES ?
All the professional portraits of Khushnuda Shukurova in this article have been created by the NYC portrait photographer Alice Prenat - studio Portrait Madame.