Fight­ing to be heard and seen


“It’s al­ways go­ing to be a daily strug­gle,” ad­mits the di­rec­tor Ami­rah Ta­jdin. We are dis­cussing the tribu­la­tions of be­ing young, fe­male and of colour.

“Last week I was put for­ward for a car com­mer­cial and all the other direc­tors were white males,” she says. “Three of them hadn’t even done car com­mer­cials be­fore. Of course I didn’t get the job. But I wasn’t sur­prised. The guy they gave it to was a white male, had never done a car com­mer­cial be­fore, had never even done a TVC. Why did he get it? No one will ever give you a straight or hon­est an­swer.

“I asked around be­cause I want to know, and if there’s a space for me to chal­lenge my­self I want that chal­lenge. They were like ‘oh, they’ve worked with him be­fore, they liked his per­son­al­ity’. Okay. You’ve seen my reel, you’ve seen his reel, we’ve been put for­ward by the same agency or pro­duc­tion house, what’s the dif­fer­ence? It can only be one thing.”

Life can be tough if you’re a fe­male com­mer­cials di­rec­tor and Ta­jdin is on the front line. One of only a hand­ful in the UAE, she has di­rected ads for the likes of Cadil­lac, Bloom­ing­dale’s, Peroni and Pepsi, yet still faces an up­hill strug­gle against some agen­cies and clients.

Although she brushes off much of her con­cern with an oc­ca­sional ‘what­ever’ the an­noy­ance must oc­ca­sion­ally wear her down. If it does, she’s not let­ting it show. Novem­ber 2016

“There was an­other shoot where the whole cam­paign was about Dubai – a city like no other, let’s find the depth of the city etc. – and then they didn’t go with a lo­cal di­rec­tor,” she says. “The di­rec­tor they chose hadn’t even vis­ited here. He’s ex­pected to come into this city for 10 days and pro­duce this amaz­ing work for them like ‘oh yeah, I get it, Dubai’. I think what clients and agen­cies don’t re­alise is you can do that with ci­ties like New York and Lon­don and Paris be­cause we’ve seen them in a mil­lion and one movies, they’re thor­oughly doc­u­mented, and as a di­rec­tor you can fly from any­where, go there and still shoot some­thing su­per cool that’s au­then­tic to the city. That’s not the case with Dubai, where the nooks and cran­nies you can ex­pe­ri­ence here are not as easy to find.”

Softly spo­ken with fre­quently pierc­ing eyes, Ta­jdin was born into a Swahili/omani com­mu­nity in Kenya and has spent much of her life be­tween Nairobi, South Africa and Dubai, where she spent her teen years and now lives. Although her time ap­pears pri­mar­ily fo­cussed on per­sonal work, such as short films and prospec­tive fea­tures, it is ad­ver­tis­ing that is her bread and but­ter.

Much of that work is cre­ated with pro­ducer sis­ter Wafa Ta­jdin, who she spent four years with in Kenya be­fore mov­ing back to Dubai. It was there that they forged their work­ing re­la­tion­ship, pro­duced their first long-form doc­u­men­tary to­gether, and shot a short film that did well on the fes­ti­val cir­cuit.

It’s a shame for me to wake up some­times and look up and see that all my team are boys. Where are the girls?

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