As the youngest of four, Z.Khalilah was the quiet and shy child who often sailed under the radar. But her subtle demeanor allotted her the keen sensibility to hone in on her surroundings and the subjects within them. She remembers often journeying alone into backwoods of her Georgia home and noting the slightest of details–from the sounds of the swaying trees to wing patterns of the smallest of creatures. At family gatherings in a room full of her animated southern family, she enjoyed observing their many facial expressions and body language. Her sense of observation allowed her to view the world as a place of wonder and many unknowns. She now uses her love of studying human nature and the world around her to foster her career as a storyteller.
One of the first experiences that molded Z.Khalilah as a filmmaker was her senior documentary entitled Into The Mirror. What began as a journey to document her 16-year-old sister in law, quickly blossomed into a story of relationships, vulnerability and adversity in the wake of a revealed pregnancy. Through this experience, Z.Khalilah has been inspired to keep honesty at the forefront of her films, which resulted in the win of 2012 Georgia State University Jury Film Award for Into The Mirror.
Her aesthetic influences and creative interests are shaped by two distinct factors: atmosphere and the people within that given atmosphere. She values illuminating the stories of the unheard. While attaining her BA, Z.Khalilah learned about the struggles of undocumented youth in Atlanta and their unheard voices. She was inspired to embark on her own journey of research discovering the many migration stories of these children. She became dedicated to the research of Latin American child’s clandestine crossing and immersed herself in the culture, camped in the Sonora desert while providing humanitarian aid, visited the border town Nogales, Mexico, and presented in communities and universities. Through this experience she learned about digging into human nature and finding the intimate moments that make us human. As a result this motivated her future project Andrés’s Crossing, a narrative based on an eight-year-old boy’s illegal border crossing through Arizona’s Sonora desert. It is her hopes to bring this story to the big screen during her career.
As her desire to hone in on her craft grew, she was accepted into one of the nation’s top film schools, Loyola Marymount University’s School of Film and Television in Los Angeles. As a Dean’s Fellow she is currently pursuing her Masters of Fine Arts and is set to graduate in 2018.
Her latest documentary, Undiscovered Princess, explores the importance of cultural and self-identity for a child. Z.Khalilah immerses the audience into her daughter’s world as the first grader’s love of princesses is used to explore what it means to black Muslim girl in America. Undiscovered Princess set to debut in 2016.