Alysha Siddiqi, the first ‘Voices That Matter Scholarship’ recipient.
MetFilm School Berlin, partnered with Viacom’s MTV Staying Alive Foundation last year, to award a full scholarship for the professional advancement of female filmmakers.
The 2019 Voices That Matter Scholarship – Women in the Screen Industries – was created to support the next generation of female filmmakers, recognising the importance of accessibility and equality within the screen industries, and was launched in April 2019.
The first-ever scholarship recipient, 29-year-old Alysha Siddiqi, who was awarded a full scholarship worth €19,500 to complete the MA Directing – started her course in Berlin in Oct 2019.
Alysha is from Pakistan, where she lived with her brother, a self-employed baker in Karachi.
“This is a dream come true, I cried when I heard I’d won the scholarship – I would never have been able to afford the fees had I not won this. The economic conditions of Pakistan have caused basic living expenses and taxes to go through the roof, and value of our currency to drop through the floor.
“Money that I was saving for my higher education, was never, ever going to be enough.”
“I applied to MetFilm Berlin because there is a very beautiful side to the Germans. I had done a lot of research into film schools, and where I felt that I’d be happiest. I believe that Germany has an accepting and tolerant society, with a very strong cultural identity, and MetFilm School Berlin is the friendliest place!”
MetFilm School Berlin is renowned for its experimental filmmaking and this was also a draw for Alysha. She said: “I was very lucky to study film at America’s UCLA. In 2016 I applied for a grant-funded US exchange program called the ‘Emerging Filmmakers Program’. I was one of only 15 selected from 10,000 students from across Pakistan.
“When I returned to Pakistan I made a documentary called Divide. It’s the story of a Sunni and a Sh’ia cleric. In the documentary, I explored the damage done to a city and its people because of religious divide.”
Divide was officially selected to screen at the 2017 Vancouver International Film Festival.
Alysha said: “That experience reinforced my desire to become a director, I have a really strong desire to find stories and tell stories through film. But I know I need to learn more, I need the rough edges smoothing and to learn more about content and structure; to become multi-skilled and meet different people and professionals from across the industry.
“In recent years the Pakistan Film industry has enjoyed a sort of revival and I want to help grow the industry, but I want to do it knowing that I don’t come to it with a South-East Asian mentality, I come to it with a global outlook – and what’s more global than MTV?!”
Alysha added: “I’ve grown up with MTV and hope this opportunity, working with such a global brand will help me fulfil my potential, perhaps break my own goals and give me lots of experience and exposure… who knows? – I might even get an invite to the MTV Awards!”
Alysha is a follower of the Bahá’í Faith and is excited at the prospect of visiting Germany’s Bahá’í Temple, she said: “The temple close to Frankfurt is the only Bahá’í temple in Europe. My Faith is important to me and the Langenhein Temple is the only Bahá’í Temple in Europe.”