Halal Gurls – World’s First Hijabi Comedy Series to Premiere on ABC iView
HALAL GURLS, a new online series filmed in Western Sydney, is being proclaimed as the World’s First Hijabi Comedy Series.
Created and Directed by Award-winning Australian filmmaker Vonne Patiag, the series celebrates Muslim women and the cultural diversity in Western Sydney. The show follows workaholic hijabi Mouna, played by Aanisa Vylet, as she navigates a cross-cultural balancing act between her structured career-driven life and the chaotic mess of her personal life.
“How often do we get to see a show about Muslim women where their religion, sexuality, and form of expression are not brought into question?” asks Vylet, who is also one of the five writers of the series. “The intelligence, inclusivity, lightness, and the very apparent respect towards the culture and community is what drew me towards the team and the webseries that is HALAL GURLS.”
For producers Patiag and Petra Lovrencic, it was crucial that HALAL GURLS was created via inclusive practice. “We wanted to show Muslim women in their best and most authentic light, and we couldn’t have done that without engaging with and listening to the community,” says Lovrencic. “We’ve collaborated with the community every step of the way, from writing through to the amazing soundtrack we produced. It all comes out of Western Sydney talent.”
“It’s definitely time for a groundbreaking series like this to exist,” says Patiag, who grew up in Blacktown and still resides in Western Sydney. “Some of my closest friends are Muslim, and I’ve grown up and worked with Hijabis in the past – they have always been some of the most funniest and fiercest women out there, full of resilience and sass, but unfortunately society likes to paint them a different way. HALAL GURLS is an opportunity to reclaim the representation of modern Muslim women in a humanised and nuanced light, and to spark discussion about diversity on-screen and behind the camera.
Sara Mansour, co-founder of the Bankstown Poetry Slam and one of the writers of HALAL GURLS, praises the series for its authenticity. “I love that the show is exactly about my lived experience as a veiled Muslim woman living in Sydney”, says Mansour. “The show draws on shared values and experiences and examines them through the lens of Muslim women in Australia – a group that have been subjected to a lot of scrutiny.”
Bryan Brown stars as Mouna’s no-nonsense boss, Gordon Rudd, who runs a successful law firm. “With a number of friends in the Australian-Lebanese community, I reckon it’s about time we got to see them on screen on Australian television and film,” says Brown.
Vylet adds, “Because of HALAL GURLS, more Australians from diverse backgrounds can watch the series and begin to believe that one day their stories and their community can light our screens.”
The series is one of three series produced as part of the Digital First Comedy Initiative, which was commissioned by ABC, Create NSW, and Information + Cultural Exchange. The initiative supports comedy storytelling by content makers from Western Sydney, something Patiag is passionate about. “There is such a wealth of talent out here! We made our aim to have a female-led crew of Western Sydney creatives working on this show, and the area really delivered. Diversity doesn’t have to be an after-thought if you include the right people from the beginning.”
“HALAL GURLS really shows that Muslim women, just like any other group of people, have agency and are navigating a bunch of their cultural rules and social codes in order to achieve what they want,” says Mansour. “The series shows that we are in fact empowered, and all we ever needed is the platform.”
“They are a funny vibrant lot,” adds Brown. “Here’s to HALAL GURLS.”
HALAL GURLS will premiere on ABC iView on October 4, and will stream on iView as well as ABC’s YouTube channel in the following weeks.
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