FTMA Alum Nominated for 7 African American Academy Awards

A scene from Yusuf Al-Rahman's film Niya (2015). Pictured is Yusuf Al-Rahman who plays the character, Yusuf. Photo courtesy of Sacred Heart University's website.
A scene from Yusuf Al-Rahman’s film Niya (2015). Pictured is Yusuf Al-Rahman who plays the character, Yusuf. Photo courtesy of Sacred Heart University’s website.

By Alessandra Setaro

Staff Reporter

For Sacred Heart’s Film and Television Masters Program (FTMA) graduate, Yusuf Al-Rahman, creating an ultra low budget film meant being nominated for seven African Movie Academy Awards.

“It feels surreal being nominated, but it gives me the courage and drive to continue storytelling,” said Al-Rahman.

Al-Rahman’s film, “Niya,” shares the story of a Muslim family and the hardships they endure. Al-Rahman also starred as the father in the film, acting as both actor and co-producer and co-director.

Initially, Al-Rahman planned to cast someone else as the lead role, but after being encouraged by a friend to play the lead in his own story, Al-Rahman took on the challenge.

“Yusuf came into the FTMA program with a profound passion for film and storytelling,” said assistant professor and Director of FTMA, Justin Liberman. “He constantly drew from his life experiences and his heritage to create stories that he hoped would help illuminate the beauty of his culture.”

“Niya” was a story of a family whose faith and relationships were tested through adversity.

“‘Niya’ is a beautiful portrait of the human condition and the unwavering power of faith and family,” said Liberman. “I think the film is a perfect example of the power and universality of cinema.”

Damon Maulucci, Assistant Professor, Director of the FTMA program and professor of Al-Rahman also commented on the budding filmmaker’s work.

“[Yusuf] took risks and was open to learning from his failures,” said Maulucci. “I say this in the most complementary way possible. He understood that our program is designed to foster filmmakers by giving them resources and support to make films.”

Al-Rahman reflected Sacred Heart’s influence to his learning.

“When I started at Sacred Heart, I emptied my cup of everything that I thought I knew about filmmaking and opened myself to learn the basics,” said Al-Rahman. “I couldn’t have made this journey without my FTMA professors.”

Liberman believes that many alumni have the capability to be cinematic storytellers.

“When they use that power and turn their camera on an underrepresented subject to highlight a story that serves to build bridges and tear down cultural walls, we feel very proud,” said Liberman.

Al-Rahman’s nominations included one for best actor.

“My advice would be to master the basics before breaking rules,” said Al-Rahman. “Dream big, work in small steps, building a compelling story arc to build the film off of, and just go out there and do it well without shortcuts. Life is art.”

Yusuf Al-Rahman created “Niya” on a $7,000 budget for production and editing and took about three months to complete.

This “ultra-low budget” designation, as his film “Niya” is referred to in the film industry, makes Al-Rahman’s nominations even more remarkable.

“Yusuf was an inspirational student in the FTMA program,” said Maulucci. “I was able to see ‘Niya’ in its early stages, as a rough cut. I saw it as a raw and truthful story.”

With the continuing growth of Sacred Heart’s School of Communications and Media Arts programs, Al-Rahman’s nominations promote positive publicity for the program.

The African Movie Academy Awards were held at the National Art Theater Igamu, Lagos, Nigeria on Saturday, Nov. 26.

“We are very proud to be part Yusuf’s story as a filmmaker,” said Maulucci. “To have his voice out in the world strengthens our community.”

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