Muhammad Bilal is an African American filmmaker and actor from the South Side of Chicago. He began studying acting as a child at the Piven Theatre Workshop with the late Byrne Piven. He later was accepted into the highly selective drama program at Lincoln Park High School. Muhammad was awarded a full scholarship to The Theatre School at DePaul University, where he continued to study acting. While in college, he studied filmmaking at Chicago Filmmakers. In 2003, he completed his first master's degree in education and relocated to NYC. While working as an educator, he continued to study filmmaking at The New York Film Academy and New York University. He, too, continued to study acting at the Anthony Abeson Studio. In 2018, after serving as an NYC high school teacher and administrator for 17 years and earning a second master's degree in education, he left the field to pursue filmmaking on a full-time basis. Muhammad earned a Master of Fine Arts in film production at The City College of New York in 2020. He is the founder and creative director of his own independent film production company, Bilal World Entertainment. His film credits include SAPO and The Blue Cave. He is in pre-production with Perdido, which is scheduled to be released in 2022.
Tell us about your experience at the Hip Hop Film Festival? I thoroughly enjoyed the festival and all of the engaging events and programs it provided. I was able to gain a wealth of knowledge from the numerous cyphers, and I was able to showcase my film to a large audience. I, too, was to network with so many talented filmmakers and industry professionals. All in all, I had an awesome experience and look forward to submitting my work to the festival next year. I encourage everyone, filmmaker or not, to support and participate in this festival FOR THE CULTURE!
Why are stories from the culture important? The stories from the culture are important because our stories are important. Our stories are powerful, painful, unique, artistic, and inspiring. We are trendsetters who inspire the world to speak up, speak out, create, and be heard. We need to continue to ensure that we get into spaces where we can make a difference and continue to spread stories from, of, and for the culture. The culture is about liberation and creation! These stories give birth to global movements.
What projects are you working on now? I am currently working on a film called Perdido. I am in pre-production. Perdido is a film about an African American man named Amir, who reluctantly seeks therapy after suppressed memories from his past are triggered by a tragic run-in with police.
This film is being created in association with Black Men Heal, to remove the stigma and judgment of mental health and mental illness for Black men.
Why do you think the Harlem Film House and Hip Hop Film Festival are important? The Harlem Film House and Hip Hop Film Festival are important because they both provide a space for people who have stories from the culture to be shared and seen. What the Harlem Film House and Hip Hop Festival do for film and the culture is priceless! Without both, many of these stories would not be heard. Without Harlem Film House and HHFF, many important and brilliant films would never be seen. Also, both are providing filmmakers of the culture with access to distributors who can take their work and career to the next level. This usually only happens at big mainstream festivals that seldom embrace us or our stories.