MY GOD I’M QUEER played to rave reviews at the June 2020 LGBT Film Festival.
Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?
Matt Mahmood-Ogston: On 30th July, 2014, my fiancé, my partner in everything, and eternal soulmate Naz (Dr Nazim Mahmood) sadly took his own life, two days after his religious family confronted him about his sexuality. It was the first time they had heard about our 13-year relationship and our plans to marry. They told Naz to go to a psychiatrist to be ‘cured’. They treated him like a disease that needed to be got rid of.
The day after Naz passed away I was told by his family that he was living in ‘sin’ because of their religious beliefs. In the same breath I was also told that I was living in ‘sin’ because of ‘my religion’. They told me not to tell anyone that Naz ‘liked men’ as it would bring ‘shame’ on their family. Out of respect I followed their wishes, until it reached a point and I decided I could not sit back and let this happen to anyone else ever again.
Our film, My God, I’m Queer was produced in 2019 with a goal of being screened for the first time at a large event in London to mark 5 years since my darling Naz passed away. The goal was to ensure that Naz would never be forgotten, and his life would help others to never experience the same pain and rejection that he went through.
2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?
The first scenes were actually filmed over two years ago, but they were filmed long before we had any solid plans for making this particular film. I’d actually known for the last four years that I wanted to make a film…. But I lacked confidence and did not believe I had what it takes to make a film. And then I met my Producer Meera in December 2018 on the way to a Christmas party. We both wanted to make our first documentary – so we agreed to make the film together. The rest is history!
3. How would you describe your short film in two words!?
4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?
This was a deeply personal and emotionally challenging journey for me personally. And I know I wouldn’t have been able to complete this film without rockstar Producer like Meera. Other than emotion, probably the biggest challenge was learning how to make a film, while making a film. I barely knew how to use my camera when we first started filming!
We were blessed with an incredible group of contributors who all spent so much time and energy to help make the film a success.
5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?
We were smiling inside and felt proud of ourselves. To hear reactions from complete strangers who not only watched our film, but who had understood and could articulate some of the many intense struggles that our contributors, and my late fiancé had experienced.
The format and platform provided by the LGBT Feedback Festival organizers has been truly nourishing and rewarding for us two first time filmmakers.
Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:
6. How did you come up with the idea for this short film?
I knew that I wanted to make a film to be screened on 30th July 2019 – five years since my fiancé Naz passed away. But it was so important that the film would not be perceived as a memorial film. It needed to be a film that could be used as a tool to help inspire others to be themselves, and to live their lives freely and openly. I was hugely inspired by the creative work of artist Yann Arthus-Bertrand who so beautifully captures the human spirit on film.
We wanted our film to feel like an ‘experience’, where our audience could escape too… and when the journey of the film was over we wanted our audience to feel moved, inspired, uplifted and optimistic about their own future.
7. What film have you seen the most in your life?
True Romance, or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?
Pretty amazing. Once we had got our head around how the process works, and made our first few mistakes, the experience was all uphill after that. It’s truly incredible that this one site has the power to create life-changing opportunities and connect new and experienced filmmakers to audiences all around the world.
9. What song have you listened to the most times in your life?
Say Something (I’m sorry I couldn’t get to you) – ft. Christina Aguilera
10. What is next for you? A new film?
My God, Im Queer – this is the first episode of our anthology. Once this film is available publicly we will then start releasing a series of shorter films, each focusing more in-depth on the lives of each of our contributors.
Meera and I met for the first time at the beginning of this project. Along this journey we became friends, and we now call each other family. We are looking forward to start filming together again on a new project. We’re already working on two new documentary ideas. One project proposal has been well received by the documentary department at one of the UK’s largest newspapers. So fingers crossed, when filming restrictions are lifted we can begin filming again!