For this month’s edition of the BUFF blog, GYULYARA MELIKI spoke with AMAL FASHANU on filmmaking, racism, personal challenges and her equality campaigns.
Amal Fashanu is a filmmaker, designer, TV presenter and an equality campaigner. She’s produced 4 documentaries: “Britain’s Gay Footballers” for BBC3, “The Batman Shooting” on gun crime, “Find a Home for My Brother” on mental health and “Footballers, Sex, Money: What’s Gone Wrong” for BBC3. After being invited by David Cameron in 2012 to a summit on discrimination in football at Downing Street, she created her fashion brand “Black Heart Label” and earlier this year Amal, alongside her father John Fashanu, set up The Justin Fashanu Foundation (www.tjff.org.uk) to raise awareness and educate on mental health, racism, and homophobia in sport. Justin is John’s younger brother and Amal’s uncle.
ON THE JUSTIN FASHANU FOUNDATION AND FAMILY
Gyulyara: How did you come up with the idea of launching your foundation?
Amal: Well, in 2012, when I made this documentary [(“Britain’s Gay Footballers” for BBC 3)], I was invited to Downing Street and it made me want to do more, equality wise. And I know that Justin would have been really proud of me doing these types of things that I do. But at the time, obviously I was 21 years old and I effectively didn’t have the finances or the knowledge in order to set up a foundation. At one point, this was two years ago, I was in a better position to say, right, let me honour Justin. And let me honour the fact that there are footballers out there who happen to be gay and want to come out and let me set something up to help them. So late last year I set up the foundation and we were going to launch on the 19th of February this year. Out of the blue, the [National Football Museum] asked if they could do the launch; they actually wanted to induct Justin into their hall of fame for the museum in Manchester. I let them do the launch, the induction was amazing. And it got so much press and it was just really good feedback and everyone was super happy. But then the pandemic hit, not allowing us to do the official launch. But we’ve been getting a lot of attention and we’ve been working with a few magazines and newspapers to get the word out there!
(from l-r: Justin Fashanu, Amal Fashanu, John Fashanu)
Gyulyara: Is it challenging to have Fashanu as your surname?
Amal: Of course, Yeah. When you’re born in a family that no one knows, then there’s nothing to know apart from what you show them, when you decide to. In my case, it was a bit different. But I just don’t think that it’s a disadvantage. I just think that it’s another way of living and a role I have to push further. And it’s obvious that I have to work 10 times harder in order to be someone, not necessarily associated with my dad. And it doesn’t mean that I don’t love him, you know, being my dad, which I do, but it would be great if people spoke less to me about football and more to me about who I am and what I would like to do in life. But I guess that’s why we’re here!
ON FILMMAKING AND RACISM
Gyulyara: As a filmmaker, what words of advice do you have for filmmakers reading this blog?
Amal: I will first advise people going into documentaries to love the topic that you’re talking about, the subject. And I think that you have to be passionate about it so that it allows you to be ballsy and to actually get real content – the realness of things. I want to see what’s real and what’s true. I don’t want to invent or make things up. That’s why I don’t really use scripts and guidelines, as I have a feel for the questions that I need to ask because I need to know something. And I guess that’s how I would like the viewers to see it, in wanting to show them a real story. And if I don’t ask those questions that are hard hitting and kind of, you know, a bit uncomfortable then who is going to ask them, cause these are the questions the audience want to hear and want to know about.
Gyulyara: On which topic would you make your next documentary about?
Amal: Um, I think about race. I think it’s very relevant right now and I think it’s something that’s really affected me growing up. I grew up in Madrid where everyone’s white and my mom’s white effectively. And so is her family and all my family. You know, I grew up probably thinking a majority of the time that I was more white than I was, and I’m mixed race, but then all of a sudden you come here to England and black people want you to be black. So then I just feel a bit torn, you know, one minute it’s like, am I black or am I white, who am I? Can I be both? Or do I call myself mixed race? Um, so yeah, it’s a topic that I would like to investigate and to see what other people have in mind!
ON FASHION AND MUSIC
Gyulyara: Is there anything you want to concentrate on more right now? Filmmaking, Fashion or TV Presenting? Or something new?
Amal: I’m currently focusing on my fashion handbags [(www.amalfashanuhandbags.com)] and my streetwear brand “Black Heart Label” [(www.blackheartlabel.com)]. I’m also very interested in music and I’ve lately been going into the studio quite a bit. I’ve been writing and I think it ties into the whole campaigning side of me. So my streetwear brand is an equality brand, my sports foundation is also to do with equality and football. And I think my music is just another layer to that, because I write a lot about equality. I do sing aswell!
Gyulyara: When you’re your own boss, where do you find the motivation?
Amal: I think I have a certain discipline and I think I have a certain fire within me that allows me to continue. I have an automated pilot system that doesn’t allow me to be upset when it comes to work. So the only thing that can affect me is emotional. My disciplined state of mind right now is so effective, that even when I’m feeling down, I’m able to get myself out of it, whether it’s with a two hour walk and I can think, and I can put things into perspective, whether it’s chatting on the phone to my friends or to my mum or to my family, I find avenues to make myself be motivated and want to do better because I know effectively that, you know, easy come easy go. And it’s as simple as that, as my dad always explained to me. You have to fight for what you want.
Gyulyara: If you had the power to change three things in the world, what would they be?
Amal: I think it would be trying to cure diseases or sicknesses. I would do something about people not having homes and not having food. I think that poverty is a big thing still today and I don’t think we pay enough attention to it. And I think maybe it would be to bring back my uncle, you know, that would be my dream.
Interviewed and written by Gyulyara Meliki [(@gyulyarameliki)]
In addition to its affiliations with BAFTA, BIFA, AMAA and Film Freeway, [BUFF is a partner festival with the Iris Prize LGBT+ Film Festival.] Now in its 14th year of celebrating LGBT+ film, an array of selections from this year’s Iris Prize are available to stream on [All 4].