Spotlight On: Aliya Haq, Film Director
When Aliya Haq was in first grade, she invited her entire class over to “make a movie." Since then, she hasn't stopped exploring her love of bringing distant worlds to the screen for others to experience—all while challenging the status quo of a male-dominated industry.
In order to change the narrative, we don't just need on-screen representation— we need a completely new perspective and an honest portrayal of culture. Aliya purposefully casts minority actors as lead roles in her films, highlighting them as multifaceted and complex characters worthy of an actual story—something we all know Hollywood tends to dismiss.
“What so many people don’t realize is they learn how to behave from the films they watch,” Aliya says. "They learn what it’s like to be a man, a woman, OR they learn to feel like they’re an outsider because they don’t fit into either of these categories. So if cis, straight, white men continue to have the power, it will negatively affect generations to come.”
When you step into Aliya's creative world, you’re transported through time and space into a surreal fever dream. Her stylistic approach to directing is an intentional decision to tell stories through an otherworldly lens in order to spotlight necessary and current themes. There’s a real beauty and humanity in her work that is shown through her specificity and attention to detail.
Aliya finds inspiration in the bizarre and grandiose along with artists within the queer community, specifically Eda Birthing and Imp Queen. "They specialize in a realm of drag that is completely transformative, creating unique creatures and worlds from scratch."
Her imagined worlds are also inspired by music and images projected in her head that she pieces together, “I am always challenging myself. I like to make entirely different worlds than the last one. Kind of like dreams—a new tone, new characters, a new situation every time.”
Though there is still a lot of work to be done for the industry itself, Aliya is already lightyears ahead. She's making big strides to build a name for herself while uplifting those voices she knows to be important along the way.
"So many days I feel like I am already living my dream," she says. "I’m working with some of the most talented people in this city, crafting something we all believe in everyday. How cool is that?” It’s very cool, indeed.
Favorite part about the Chicago creative community? I talk about this almost everyday! What I love about Chicago is this humble quality that people have — especially in creative communities, it can be a hard thing to find. Because of this, I feel like we spend more energy supporting one another rather than resenting each other, and that feels really good.
Favorite TV show? One of my favorite filmmakers of all time is Gregg Araki (AKA my dad). He just put out a new show called "Now Apocalypse." Anything he puts out has me geeked.
Favorite cocktail/drink? It’s been a mezcal kind of summer! I love how smokey and complex the flavor of this liquor is, I especially am a fan of the brand La Luna and their recipe for El Cantaro Ancestral.
Favorite Chicago artist? This is a very tough question! But I would have to say the queer scene gives me a lot of motivation to keep expanding my creative outlook, especially artists like An Authentic Skidmark, Imp Queen, Bonbon, and Edaa Birthing. They specialize in a realm of drag that is completely transformative, creating unique creatures and worlds from scratch. It’s ridiculously inspiring. I’m also obsessed with musician/DJ Ariel Zetina, she just gets me as far as music taste.
Favorite spot in Chicago? (can be a neighborhood, restaurant, bar, etc.) My new spot is a little bar called Ludlow Liquors. Cute cocktails, reasonably priced beer pitchers and THE best fries I’ve had in the city. They serve their fries with vanilla ice cream, OK? Also they have a black disco ball and a big patio… so?
"Spotlight On" is a bi-weekly series highlighting Chicago creatives with a twist. We share a slice of their stories and what they love, hoping to inspire and connect.
Words by Lolo Ramos