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University of Arizona alumni comes back to campus with an award-winning film

Courtesy Justin Mashouf
Director Justin Mashouf during the filming of The Honest Struggle.

Justin Mashouf graduated from the University of Arizona in 2008 where he received his bachelors in Media Arts. He is now a four-time Emmy-award-winning filmmaker and artist based in Los Angeles.

Mashouf is now coming back to campus to screen with his recent and the most praised film in his career, “The Honest Struggle,” on Oct. 18. With this film, Mashouf claims that the UA always had a part of his heart. 

“The University of Arizona is a great institution and I enjoyed the education that I got there. It is great to come back,” Mashouf said. “I am very excited. I loved my experience at the University of Arizona when I was going there.”

Mashouf explains that having the opportunity of showing his work at the university that helped him grow as a filmmaker and storyteller is very meaningful to him.

“This film is a combination of so many years of learning and working in telling a story,” Mashouf said. “It is my way of giving back.”

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Director Justin Mashouf during the filming of The Honest Struggle.
Director Justin Mashouf during the filming of The Honest Struggle.

Beverly Seckinger, Mashouf’s former professor in the UA School of Theater, Film & Television, said Mashouf was very motivated, committed and passionate as a student. According to Seckinger, he was always “putting 200% in his work.”

“He was a guy who wanted to change the world through media, and that is my favorite kind of student,” Seckinger said.

Maha Nassar, associate professor in the UA School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies and another of Mashouf’s former professor, expressed that she feels very proud of him.

“The film is fantastic; it is very moving,” Nassar said. “It is going to make people think about their own lives and about the lives of people that they barely interact with — especially for university students.”

“The Honest Struggle” portrays the story of an ex-gang, black Muslim that has been in prison for most of his life. After over 25 years, he gets out of prison and has to deal with the same streets that destroyed his life. The film shows how the character struggles to try to re-enter into society.

“I’m tired — I’m just tired of trying” is one of the lines the main character says in the film, and is Nassar’s personal favorite.

“There are a lot of people in this country who, no matter how hard they try, it doesn’t work out for them,” Nassar said. “The idea of America is that no matter what your background is, if you work hard and keep trying, you can make it. But that is not the case for everyone.”

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Although Mashouf has won numerous prizes and awards for his valuable work as a filmmaker, he reveals that his greatest achievement is being able to a story that promotes conversations that encourage people to act. With this film, Mashouf said he wants to give hope and inspiration to people who were behind bars and now are dealing with depression because that past hangs on their records and hinders their ability to find jobs.

As part of the experience making the film, Mashouf went to dangerous areas in Chicago. He had placed himself into dramatic situations that made him reflect on the fact that for some people that life is their daily reality. According to Mashouf, those facts gave him more motivation to complete the story.

“The story chose me in some way,” Mashouf said.

Mashouf claims that the education he got from the UA also shaped the way he works. The university encouraged him to follow his voice, his point of view.

“This film is kind of a product of the university in many ways,” Mashouf said.

The screening will take place in Manuel T. Pacheco Integrated Learning Center room 150 from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., followed by a panel discussion with Mashouf.

Watch the trailer for “The Honest Struggle” here.

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