Local Gem: Films for Action

Nihel Ayari (left) and Anna Reed (right)

Nihel Ayari (left) and Anna Reed (right)

Words and photos by Tess Cagle

Anna Reed and Nihel Ayari are two badass babes who are part of a six-person leadership team that started the Austin chapter of Films for Action, an organization that uses alternative media to inspire positive, meaningful social change in local communities. 

Films for Action is hosting its first official film screening on July 1—a re-screening of a UT student-made documentary titled "BLACKOUT," followed by a panel discussion on gentrification in Austin and the Rundberg community. The documentary was produced by the UT National Association of Black Journalists that depicts the rapid gentrification of East Austin, by sharing the experiences of community members, activists and scholars. 

We'll be partnering with Films for Action in the future for more events. Stay tuned. 

The following interview was conducted by Tess Cagle:

Tell me a little bit about yourselves. 

Nihel: I have been in Austin for 15 years now. I didn’t go to university. I went for a little bit and realized I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I didn’t want to waste time. I dropped out and started working straight away. I’m a multi-passionate person so I love learning and making new friends and making new connections. My background is that all my family is from Tunisia, and I’m first-generation North American; I’m actually Canadian and was born in Montreal. I call Austin home, because I’ve been here the longest. 

Anna: I am born and raised in Austin, actually. I went to school in New Orleans at Tulane University. I graduated a year ago in Sociology. I came back to Austin for AmeriCorp VISTA, which is a national service program. I really am passionate about doing community work and connecting with people and collaborating with people to make this beautiful city something more. I met Nihel through my boyfriend and we started Films for Action because we wanted to get to know all the organizations in the city, connect them and make a difference. Films For Action is really about inspiring people to make social change.

What made you decide to get involved in activism? 

N: I just like making a difference through small changes. It feels good for me, and it feels good to help the community. I think we all should take care of our own backyards, so I help my family as much as I can, I help support my friends as much as I can, and the next step is helping my community. 

A: I’ve always been very service-minded and community-oriented. I can’t remember a time where I wasn’t really involved in something like volunteering, which, in my opinion, is a form of activism. I really care about this community and about Austin and about people living healthy, happy lives together. I don’t think we’re there yet, but I want us to get there.


Why is Films for Action important to you? 

N: I think community is really essential for human health and happiness. I’ve studied to be a health coach and we’ve learned a lot about communities and how important they are in the longevity and the health of people. I really think that Films for Action is going to bring like-minded people together that are passionate about making change. Instead of having a bunch of different people around the community that are disconnected but trying to make a change and are feeling really alone, I want Films for Action to connect those people. My other favorite thing about Films for Action, that I think really nails it on the head, is: “Don’t complain about the media; be the media.” I think that completely represents what this organization is all about. 

A: Films for Action brings together all of those collaborative agents through film, so even if people know that they're interested in learning about something, they’re able to use their visual and emotional feelings to connect and move forward with a specific project. Films for Action inspires, and then it gives you a lot of opportunities to network and connect. Like, for our first event, we’re talking about gentrification, right? We’re using a film, but we’re also bringing in different organizations that are working on gentrification at different levels in the community. 


Who's your boss babe girl crush?

N: Probably, Marie Forleo. She’s like a superhero.  Marie is just so inspiring and so encouraging. She’s multi-passionate. She’s a hip-hop dancer, she’s super healthy, athletic and she has great energy. Her and Arianna Huffington. Arianna tells women to sleep to the top, by actually sleeping eight hours a day, and I think that’s so important.

A: I just read Amy Poehler’s new book, so I’m gonna go with her. There’s just way too many women out there to pick. But she’s hilarious and just really inspiring, and tells women to just go for it. 

Favorite bands right now? 

N: I have bouts of obsessions with bands. I recently discovered Marian Hill. And Major Lazer

A: No matter what happens, I always have a soft spot for Bon Iver and Alexi Murdoch


How do you stay inspired? 

N: I love the Internet. I used to work a corporate job before I started the job I work now, and the only way I survived was watching interviews. I love listening to videos of experts in their fields and hearing about their journeys to where they are now. They have such pure insight that makes me feel really good and inspired. 

A: I think I’ll be inspired as long as I’m still learning. Whether it be through podcasts, the traditional classroom, at my job or just at the park watching people. As long as I’m still learning I’ll be inspired. 


Favorite local Austin gems? 

N: I love the moonlit kayaking they host on Wednesdays. And I love the top of the 360 Overlook hike. 

A: I really love Vintage Heart on E. 7th Street. 


Social media handles? 

N: @forpeaceatx 

A: @Annalou1992 

@films4actionatx is the Twitter for the nonprofit.


Make it out to Films for Action ATX's debut of "BLACK OUT" from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the North Austin YMCA on Wednesday, July 1. You can find the event details here.

Watch the movie's trailer below: