Month: November 2019

In This Corner of the World: A Heartfelt Gem

Words: Hoang-Phi Quy

Animated movies in our time usually focus on genres such as fantasy and action. Luckily, I stumbled upon a historical fiction based in Japan during World War II.

Produced by Studio MAPPA in 2016, In This Corner of the World is a historical fiction animated movie set in 1944 during WWII. The film follows the life of Suzu Urano, an 18-year-old girl who recently moved out of Hiroshima to be married into another family, the Houjous. She slowly adapts to the lifestyle of a traditional housewife. Over time, she learns the ability to cook, clean, shop and sew for the family. While Urano has no children of her own, she is required to take care of her mother-in-law, who is ill.

As Urano adapts to her new lifestyle, the beginning of the war erupts, and things start to change. The famine and constant air raid sirens force her to once again accommodate to the world around her.

In This Corner of the World is a slice-of-life and drama set in Japan. It depicts the daily life and struggle of a regular, middle-classed Japanese household during the war. Urano’s struggle and adaptation to her surroundings create an extremely realistic feel to this animation.

The beautiful, hand-drawn animation creates exemplary scenes and shots. I would recommend this to anyone because of the animation, the story, and the morals and virtues that are taught throughout.

th/nk/dt/pb

For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.

Why November? The Truth Behind College Board’s Decision

Words: Caleb McClatchey

Photo: Adithi Soogoor

For the world of secondary education, the College Board’s seemingly innocent February 6 press release contained a bombshell. In it, the educational non-profit announced it would be making two major changes to the Advanced Placement (AP) program for the 2019-20 school year. The first, giving teachers access to new online resources designed to help them better prepare their students for the AP exams, elicited largely positive responses from educators. The second, however, instantly sparked nationwide criticism.

This second change involved moving exam registration from the spring to the fall. Students must now sign up for AP exams by November 15, instead of March, to only pay the base exam fee of $94. Students who sign up for exams between November 16 and March 13 will have to pay a $40 late fee on top of the base exam fee. If a student changes their mind and decides to cancel an exam after November 15, they will still have to pay $40 of the $94 base exam fee.

According to the College Board, the decision to adopt fall registration was inspired by policies already in place in some AP schools. The College Board claims that some form of fall registration is already a “best practice” at over half of schools offering AP courses. However, it is unclear what specific policies the College Board considers fall registration or how strict these policies must be to be considered a “best practice.”

As the College Board explains, they learned that students in the schools which already offered fall registration were “more engaged and less likely to give up.” This increased commitment, the organization says, meant they were “more likely to earn a score that [would] translate to college credit.”

During the 2017-18 school year, the College Board conducted a pilot program to study the effects of fall registration and its alleged benefits. The organization implemented fall registration, among other changes, at 14 school districts across four different states. Combined, over 100 schools and 40,000 students participated in the pilot.

Although the College Board has provided minimal information on the nature of the pilot program or its results, it has relied heavily on anecdotes and highly limited data from the pilot program to support its claims. A video on the “2019-20 Changes to AP” page of the group’s website, for instance, shows teachers and students from pilot schools describing how they were initially skeptical of fall registration but came to realize that, as one teacher put it, “[It] really makes a difference.” Next to the video, the College Board explains that, “We’ve heard words like, ‘engaged,’ ‘confident’ and ‘less likely to give up’ when students register in the fall-and that commitment translates into more students taking the exam and earning college credit.”

Beyond anecdotal evidence, College Board boasts that, “Scores of 3+ increased across student groups” in their pilot program. A 3 is considered a passing score on the exams and is typically the minimum score required by colleges to earn credit. What College Board puts the greatest emphasis on, however, is the effect that fall registration had on groups it deems as traditionally underrepresented in the AP program. According to the College Board, underrepresented minorities (African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans), low-income students, and female STEM students fall under this category. The College Board claims that while fall registration “made a difference across the board,” it “had the strongest effect” on these students. Accompanying this claim– often in graph form– is essentially the only data from the pilot program which the College Board has currently made readily available to the public.

Chart contributed by: the College Board

The data, which shows the percentage increases in scores of 3+ across different student groups, reveals that underrepresented groups saw significantly higher relative increases in passing scores than their counterparts. The total number of scores of 3 or higher increased by 12% for underrepresented minority students compared to 5% for White/Asian students. Likewise, passing scores increased by 20% for low-income students and only 4% for moderate/high-income students. The same trend occurred with female STEM students, who achieved a 14% increase compared to a 5% increase for their male counterparts.

These results indicate that fall registration will help these student groups, who have historically had lower participation and passing rates, move closer to equitable representation within the AP Program. In fact, the College Board touts that, during one year of fall registration, “schools sped up the work of AP Equity– the share of AP Exam registrations for students of color– by seven years.”

However, the minimal data which College Board is currently providing, and corresponding claims it makes, are meaningless when taken out of the context of the rest of the pilot program data. Earlier this year, the College Board itself released somewhat more detailed data from the pilot program on its website. Although the College Board has taken down that web page since then, screenshots exist and the graphs which the College Board used on the page are still hosted on its website. These graphs displayed the raw number of total exam takers, underrepresented minority exam takers, low-income exam takers, and passing scores by low-income students within the pilot districts for the 2016, 2017, and 2018 AP exams.

This data, which the College Board has taken down for unknown reasons, is essential for putting the minimal data which they are currently trumpeting into context. This deleted data shows that while the total number of low-income exam takers increased by 33.5% from 2016-17 to 2017-18, the total number of moderate/high-income exam takers only increased by 3.9%. Given this fact, the graph showing a 20% increase in passing scores for low-income students compared to a 4% increase for moderate/high-income students is somewhat misleading. The number of low-income students taking exams simply increased at a much higher rate than did the number of moderate/high-income students taking exams. As a result, the number of exams passed by low-income students increased at a much higher rate as well. Relative to the increases in exam takers, low-income students did not see nearly as significant of an increase in performance compared to moderate/high-income students as the 20%-4% comparison suggests at first glance. This pattern is repeated with underrepresented minorities and non-underrepresented minorities as well.

To gain a more complete understanding of the program’s results, The Wingspan tracked down five of the fourteen school districts who participated in the 2017-18 pilot. Through public information requests, The Wingspan obtained previously unpublished AP data from four of these districts: Klein ISD in Texas, San Antonio ISD in Texas, Amarillo ISD in Texas, and Jefferson County Public Schools in Kentucky. The Wingspan would like to note that, despite The Wingspan’s best efforts, the data obtained for San Antonio ISD is limited to 11th and 12th graders.

Overall, the total number of exams taken increased by 7.7% across these four districts in the pilot’s first year. Since the total number of passing scores increased by a nearly identical 8%, the overall passing rate only increased by a marginal 0.11%.

For the three districts which reported results by economic status, the number of exams taken by students considered economically disadvantaged/eligible for free or reduced lunches (Eco-Dis/FRL) increased by 12.2%. Meanwhile, the total number of passing scores for these students increased by 17%. This translates to a 0.8% increase in pass rate. In comparison, the total number of exams taken, total number of exams passed, and pass rate for students not economically disadvantaged/not eligible for free or reduced lunches (Non-Eco Dis/FRL) increased by 2.2%, 6.2%, and 2.0%, respectively.

Across all four districts, the total number of exams taken by African American and Latino students increased by 10.36%. At the same time, the total number of exams passed increased by 15.6% and the pass rate increased by 0.99%. For all other students, the number of exams taken, number of exams passed, and pass rate increased by only 5.8%, 5.9%, and 0.05%, respectively.

In the aggregate, the detailed data obtained by The Wingspan appears to tell the same story as the College Board’s deleted data. It seems that the changes implemented by the pilot did increase equity with regards to access. Underrepresented groups saw a much higher percentage increase in exams taken than their overrepresented counterparts. However, the pilot appears to have done little to close the performance gap between underrepresented and overrepresented groups. In the three districts which reported results by economic status, the passing rate for Non-Eco Dis/FRL students was 30.8% higher than the passing rate for Eco Dis/FRL students in the 2016-17 school year. In the pilot’s first year, this gap actually increased to 32.0%.

It is important to note that the results of the pilot program varied significantly between districts. How the pilot affected an individual district often differed from how the pilot affected the four districts as a whole. Although the number of exams taken by Eco Dis/FRL students increased by 12.2% overall, this number increased by a staggering 116% in Amarillo ISD and actually declined by 0.68% in Jefferson County. Furthermore, despite the gap in passing rates between African American/Latino students and other students decreasing by 0.94% overall, this gap increased in three of the four districts.

These differences in results shed light on a frustrating aspect of analyzing the pilot program data: there are simply so many variables at play. The previous AP registration policy, the cost paid for exams by low-income students, the quality of AP instruction, and any changes in enrollment all influenced how a district’s AP results changed during the pilot program. Since these factors significantly vary by state and school district throughout the country, one should not expect the universal adoption of fall registration to have a universal effect.

Further complicating a true evaluation of the results of the pilot program is the nature of the pilot program itself. As it turns out, instituting a fall registration deadline was just one of many changes implemented by the College Board as part of their 2017-18 AP Pilot. Most notably, all participating school districts received access to a new support system of online resources. According to the “AP Full Year Model Implementation Plan” attached to the pilot participation agreement between the College Board and Jefferson County Public Schools, these resources were meant to enable, “yearlong, college-level practice and instruction in AP classrooms.” Highlighting these resources was an AP Question Bank available for all AP courses. The pilot agreement describes this as a “comprehensive repository of AP released and practice exam questions indexed to unit content and skills, including reports highlighting student knowledge and skill achievements and gaps.” Teachers could use these questions to build custom quizzes for each unit, students could practice with them online or on paper, and administrators could access “year-round performance and usage data.” Furthermore, AP Calculus and World History teachers received access to additional resources including scoring training, unit quizzes, and student-directed practice.

Although the pilot schools and their teachers were free to use these resources as they wished, the College Board provided them with intent and wanted them to be utilized. In fact, the aforementioned implementation plan, written by the College Board, states that, “The College Board encourages District’s utilization of these resources.” The plan explains that this will, “enable the College Board to learn about usage patterns.”

While it is impossible to quantify the exact impact of these resources, it is highly likely that they increased student performance to some extent. Kevin Rasco, District Coordinator of Advanced Placement for San Antonio ISD, described these resources as being “very heavily used,” especially for Calculus and World History. In Amarillo ISD, Director of Counseling/College and Career Readiness Tracy Morman said the resources were utilized to varying extents by different teachers but on the whole were “very beneficial.” Both Morman and Rasco emphasized how the resources allowed teachers and students to track students’ progress throughout the year. This gave students added confidence and teachers the ability to assess the effectiveness of their instruction throughout the course.

Megan Shadid, an AP Economics and World History teacher from one of the pilot districts, echoed these sentiments in an interview with USA Today. “It’s been a game changer for me in terms of how I teach,” she explained.

If the College Board wanted to “further study the effects of moving exam registration to the fall,” as their website says, why introduce another variable into the study in the form of these highly beneficial online resources? Even ignoring all of the other factors influencing a district’s AP exam results, it is now impossible to say to what extent the results of the pilot are indicative of the effects of fall registration and to what extent they are indicative of the benefits of the online resources. Given that this uncertainty was created by the way the College Board designed the pilot, it is curious that they do not mention their inclusion of the online resources in practically any of the information they have released about the program.

Despite questions about College Board’s representation of the pilot program and its results, there seems to be plenty of support for the fall registration deadline from those involved with the pilot.

Regarding the decision to implement fall registration nationwide, Rasco stated, “I’m behind it. I believe in it… For one reason: you commit early to the full AP experience.”

Rasco believes that kids thrive in structure and high expectations. By forcing students to register early, teachers know they have a classroom full of kids committed to taking the exams. According to Rasco, this causes a “dramatic change in the way a teacher conducts their class.”

Like Rasco, Morman also thinks that the decision is a great move and called it  “a win-win for everybody.” She emphasized that the fall registration deadline and online resources were very beneficial for her district and believes that they are what’s best for students in general.

As long as there are skeptics of the College Board, there will always be controversy surrounding the decisions it makes. The move to a fall registration deadline for AP exams is no different. The inconvenient truth, for both the College Board and its critics, is that no clear narrative appeared to emerge from The Wingspan’s investigation of the 2017-18 AP Pilot Program. Although the changes implemented by the program seemed to increase equity with regards to access, their effect on equity with regards to performance seemed to be minimal. While some of those involved in the pilot like Rasco and Morman have expressed their support of fall registration, the College Board’s limited and somewhat misleading representations of the pilot program’s results and its nature raise questions. Unfortunately, there is and in all likelihood will be no final verdict, no definitive answers.The truth, much like the pilot program and the College Board itself, is complicated.

 

To listen to a behind the scenes interview with the author, Caleb McClatchey, click here!

To view the entire November issue, click here!

For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.

Centennial Football Season Comes to an End

Words: Joey Sedlacko

Photos: Adithi Soogoor

Centennial’s Varsity football team suited up for the last time for the final game of the season on Friday, November 1. The Eagles were defeated by Hammond High School by a score of 28-0.

Before the game, nine seniors on the football team were honored for their commitment and dedication to the program.

In the first quarter, Hammond started the game strong and returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown. They continued to extend their lead throughout the first half and finished the second quarter with a 20-0 lead.

During halftime, seniors in the Centennial marching band, color guard, and Counterpoint were honored.

In the third quarter, Centennial’s defense held strong and gave up zero points. However, another touchdown scored by Hammond in the fourth quarter secured the 28 point victory.

The Eagles finished the season with a 1-7 record, but were able to end a 25-game losing streak after defeating rival Mount Hebron High School earlier in the year.

nk/th/dt

For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.

The Vaping Trap: “It will most definitely ruin your life.”

Words & Photo: Delanie Tucker

“I think [vapes] are way too easy for teenagers to get. I think teenagers are uneducated on how dangerous [vaping] is. I think the flavors do cater to a younger crowd. And I think [teens] have a misnomer that it’s safe,” said Marc Carneal, Centennial’s Student Resource Officer.       

In today’s society, teen vaping has almost become normalized. Someone sees a high school student carrying around an e-cigarette, which will more often than not be a Juul, and they hardly bat an eye.

Centennial High School students do not stray from this pattern, leading to continuous administrative efforts to curb the issue of vaping in school.

Centennial’s principal, Cynthia Dillon, sent out a newsletter last year on September 21, 2018, informing the Centennial community of her concerns and what they can do to help fix it.       

“I am concerned about this growing epidemic of use and abuse by kids in our community,” Dillon stated in the letter. “Juuling, which is essentially the same as vaping only with a different device, is on the rise nationally.”       

Dillon is not the only Centennial administrator that has a strong opinion on the matter.   

“I think [the vaping problem within Centennial] is very serious,” said Cameron Rahnama, Assistant Principal. “[Vapes] are a lot easier to conceal than cigarettes… so kids think they can get away with it easier.”       

Most teenagers are convinced that vaping is a safe alternative to smoking. Some even start vaping because it is marketed as less harmful in comparison to smoking cigarettes, so they don’t think it will hurt them.           

These minors are under the impression that there is less nicotine and other harmful substances in a Juul than in a standard cigarette, but that’s not true.           

A single Juul pod contains around 45mg of nicotine, while a cigarette contains only 12mg. Juuls have the highest nicotine levels when compared to other e-cigarettes. The National Center for Health Research stated that the e-liquid in a Juul pod is 5 percent nicotine, which is staggeringly high considering the liquid in a Blu e-cig, another type of e-cigarette, is only 2.4 percent nicotine.       

A common argument in defense of e-cigarettes is that only water vapor is inhaled, but what is actually being breathed in is called an aerosol. An aerosol is a gas made up of liquid particles that contain many toxic chemicals, which are created when the e-juice is heated up.   

“The aerosol produced by vaping or juuling is inhaled deep into the lungs,” according to The Vape Experiment , an article published by the Maryland Department of Health. “Studies have found that inhaling these chemicals can lead to asthma, inflammation, and even make it permanently harder to breathe.”       

The major chemicals found in the aerosol are propylene glycol, glycerol, lead, acetone, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, tin, nickel, nicotine, propenal, diacetin, and triacitine, none of which belong in your lungs.       

Teenagers’ willingness to overlook all of these statistics, which are publicly displayed with the intent of keeping minors from vaping, is leading to serious lung infections and, in some cases, death. In the past year alone there have been six recorded deaths caused by vaping-induced lung infections in the United States.   

Fortunately, not all cases have been fatal.   

“We have… seen at least 15 cases in Maryland and 380 across the country where individuals have been hospitalized with lung diseases associated with vaping,” Robert R. Neall, the Health Secretary for the MDH, said in an e-mailed statement, referring to statistics that were current as of September 10.       

Those that vape like to push aside the idea of something like this occurring. Being put in the hospital because of vaping is not something people consider often because they don’t think that it will happen to them, but that’s not always true.           

The possibility of falling ill should be a lot more obvious in Howard County now since, although we haven’t seen any local deaths, there has been a serious vaping issue very close to home.   

A Centennial student, 18-year-old junior Nafees Basharat, was hospitalized with a lung infection and pneumonia.   

“[The doctors] had to send a camera down my throat and vacuum up all the liquid in my lungs,” stated Basharat on his time in the hospital.   

The experience drastically changed his life, as the time spent in a hospital bed opened his eyes to the damage vaping was doing to his body.   

“Vaping was the worst decision of my life and it was really hard to stop until I was hospitalized. Before that, I wasn’t really aware of the problems and the health risks that came with [vaping],” Basharat explained. “[Vaping] can harm you. It can kill you. And it will most definitely ruin your life.”   

As a result of all of the hospitalizations and deaths in America, the government has taken action to prevent the use of e-cigarettes by minors and young adults.

Locally, after adding e-cigarettes to the list of tobacco products, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan signed off on a bill that changed the legal age to buy tobacco from 18 to 21, which went into effect on October 1, 2019.   

This bill was created in an effort to decrease the chances of minors getting a hold of the devices but there are, as always, people willing to sell to underage kids off the record.           

Now, in an attempt to prevent any more minors from vaping, President Trump is moving to ban the sale of most flavored e-cigarettes and nicotine pods.       

It has been speculated that the sale of those flavors, such as mint and mango, is done with the intent of making the products more appealing to younger buyers.   

A potential problem with this proposed law is due to the high demand for flavored pods. There is a chance that people might start making their own and selling them. This could lead to further, and potentially more dangerous, health hazards, as most people wouldn’t know how to properly make one.   

Officer Carneal does not believe that the new law will have any effect on underage vaping.

“I think no matter what, someone will buy it for them.”

 

To view the entire November issue, click here!

For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan

Changes to Centennial’s Parking Lot

Words: Mariam Abd El-Shafy   

Photos: Eliza Andrew

When students returned from summer break for the 2019-20 school year, there were some major changes made to Centennial’s parking lot. 

Last school year, students without parking permits overcrowded the school’s lot. Parents dropping off their children were unfamiliar with the drop-off rules in the morning, which made it extremely difficult to park. The after-school rush of buses and students all leaving at the same time without adequate traffic rules caused the parking lot to break out into chaos daily. 

Autumn Moore, a driving senior at Centennial, recounts, “there were always so many traffic jams, you couldn’t park. You couldn’t even exit the parking lot because there were so many cars.” 

This year, the school has formalized processes in an attempt to make the parking lot safer. The school has established rules for dropping children off, differentiated between student and staff parking with paint-markings and signs, changed the pattern of the stop signs by adding two new ones and taking one away, and limited the amount of permits given to students. 

“Last year, I got 12 anonymous letters in the mail from parents begging me to do something about the parking lot.” Principal Cynthia Dillon explains that these changes were necessary for the school to maintain a sense of safety. 

“It’s definitely more controlled now,” said Moore, reacting to the new changes. 

“It’s not as hard to park in the mornings; there’s not as much confusion.” 

However, some parents have a different outlook on these new changes. “Things are slow now,” Balpreet Bhamra, a Centennial parent, claims, and “no different than before,” in terms of student safety. 

Some parents, like Jonathan Davis, have the complete opposite view. “If a parent drops off earlier instead of waiting until they are near the gym, they can exit more quickly. The crossing guard is a vital part of the new system,” says Davis. “With everyone dropping off along the curb it’s safer!” 

Davis, however, does see room for even more improvement. “To be even safer, I wonder if they could actually pave along the curb all the way up to the tennis courts since that is where you are asking us to drop off our kids. I’m worried that when it’s snowy, wet, no one will want to get out and walk on the dirt path.” 

Senior Helen Pantoulis agrees with Davis and Moore.

“I see what the stop signs… were intended for, and I believe that something needed to change,” she says.

However, Pantoulis does not believe these changes have been for the better.

“It’s really scary and confusing, and everyone who parks around me has expressed frustration. Many students in a rush will speed out in front of other cars,” says Pantoulis. “I think [the parking lot] has become even more chaotic.” 

Before the school year, many school departments, such as administration and building services, held a meeting in order to address the dangers of the lot. Cameron Rahnama, assistant principal of Centennial, explains the process of establishing these changes. “We involved all of the responsible parties that we could think of to have out there, so when we developed what we were going to do, it was a joint effort, it wasn’t just Mrs. Dillon and [me].” 

Administration admits one of the negative side effects of the changes is parents dropping off their children in random places across Centennial Lane. “It’s really not safe,” Dillon says. “This is not about ruining someone’s day or year by not giving them a permit or by forcing them to drop kids off on the right side of the road; it’s about keeping kids safe, and when parents or students don’t follow the rules, it makes it harder to do our job, keeping people safe.” 

ks/nk/vw/pb/dt

For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.

Greetings from Sarfraz Manzoor: An Exclusive Wingspan Interview

Words: Emily Hollwedel

Photos Contributed by: Sarfraz Manzoor

A young Pakistani boy around the age of sixteen is sitting in his room on a wooden chair in the dark. A party, bass thumping, can be heard from a few houses down, a party he can’t attend. He’s holding a cassette tape in his hand with the words “Bruce Springsteen” and “Born in the USA” written across the front. A friend from his class, whom everyone calls Roops, lent it to him. He’s skeptical: what could this rock star know about his life, his struggles? He’s in Luton, England, an ocean away from anything American. He’s brown and Muslim. In his other hand he clutches a Walkman, ready for use. He slowly slides in the cassette, and presses play, fast-forwarding all the way to ‘Dancing in the Dark.’ The song begins— the Earth shifts.

Blinded by the Light, directed by Gurinder Chadha, tells the story of this boy, Javed Khan, who is rather detached from his predominantly white community in 1987 Britain. It details his writing, his life, and how Springsteen changed all of that.

Above all, what makes it appealing is that it’s based on a true story. When writing his memoir, Greetings from Bury Park, journalist Sarfraz Manzoor reached out to Chadha and together they fleshed out a movie concept, and the project took off from there.

In an exclusive Wingspan interview I had the pleasure of interviewing Manzoor about his experiences with the creation of the film, Springsteen’s music, and more.

WS: How did music, specifically Bruce Springsteen, help you cope with your struggles and your life?

The cast and author of Blinded by the Light pose for a picture.

SM: Well, I guess it was just the fact that when I was growing up, there wasn’t really anybody I could look to, who could give me hope that there was a different way of life or a different route out of where my life was… I had no role models of anybody who could do anything different, and so I didn’t really feel like anybody who came from my background did anything interesting. And I guess when I listened to Springsteen I was like… his songs are about [working-class] people exactly like me, but he still has hope… I needed that at that time, you know?

WS: How did you feel when you saw the movie for the first time?

SM: To be honest, the first time I saw anything… it was the trailer… I just went absolutely ecstatic because this was even before the film. But having been on set, you see actors doing their scenes and stuff… I went ‘Oh my God. This actually looks like a real film’… when you suddenly realize this is no small deal here, we’re not mucking about. The other part that was weird is that you’ve got all these people who didn’t grow up in [Luton] who didn’t live my life, who all suddenly feel like they’ve got a connection to it. They’re like, ‘Oh my God, this dad reminds me of my dad’ and I’m like, ‘Well, that’s kind of not really possible, because it’s my dad I’m talking about’… the fact that this film is showing all across America; it’s actually just opening in France. I’m getting messages from Argentina and Israel [of] people saying they’re watching the film… it’s that moment where you realize the film is way bigger than just me.

WS: Growing up, I saw very few examples of positive South Asian representation in cinema… what kind of impact do you think that Blinded by the Light will have in terms of Asian representation?

SM: I think it’s already had that. I’ve had loads of people from the Asian community, saying, ‘Thank you for telling a story, I see myself in this film’… It was really important that the parents [in the film] were sympathetic, that they weren’t just simplistic monsters. Obviously, they see the world differently than Javed does, but you also see them struggle, you see them work, and you see them as decent people who in some ways are trying their best. [This film] shows that… you don’t have to necessarily make films that are niche just because you’ve got nonwhite faces in the film.

WS: What has the experience of this movie being out been like for you?

SM: It’s been an emotional rollercoaster, it’s been a dream, it’s been really, really emotionally powerful to share a story that’s very small and specific with the world. And it’s also been a dream come true— a month ago today, I was in Asbury Park for the premiere, and Springsteen turned up. Who would’ve thought when I was sixteen that Springsteen would turn up for the premiere of my film? There are certain things which are so crazy and really hard for the brain to take in, and that is one of them.

WS: What do you hope that people will take from this film?

SM: I hope that if they’re not already Bruce Springsteen fans, [that] they’ll give him a chance. I hope [that] they realize all of us have got more in common than what divides us— that race and religion and nationality are just labels, but actually underneath it, we all want to make our parents proud, we all want to make our dreams come true. And I also hope that it might help the next time somebody— a politician— tries to exploit hatred of Muslims and tries to make that a political thing to try and get votes from, I hope somebody will say ‘You know what? I remember watching this film with some Muslim characters and they seemed really nice; I’m not gonna go along with this sort of witch hunt and hatred because the truth is not what these politicians are telling me.’

WS: The whole movie focuses on the impact that music can have on an individual. What do you think makes people connect with music in such a way?

SM: What Bruce does, and I think that it’s something that the best people do, [he writes] really specifically about [his] life [and his] experiences, but [he does] it in such a way that people feel they can see themselves in the story. If you think— he’s talking about Asbury Park, he’s talking about the specific factories, he talks about the New Jersey Turnpike— they’re not just generic roads or generic towns, they’re actually specific places. But he does it in such a way that you think, ‘Oh wow, that could be a bit like my town!’ So the trick is that he is very, very specific, and by being specific it becomes universal… he creates this world, and it’s really detailed, and in that world we see ourselves.

 

To listen to a behind the scenes interview with the author, Emily Hollwedel, click here!

To view the entire November issue, click here!

For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.