Director of The Tiger Hunter Lena Khan Speaks on the importance of her film to the Indian-American community

Director of The Tiger Hunter Lena Khan Speaks on the importance of her film to the Indian-American community

October 19, 2017 | Author: Lena Khan, Director of The Tiger Hunter

With The Tiger Hunter opening nationwide September 22nd, director Lena Khan speaks about its immigrant story, how her own identity and experience as a first-generation Indian-American shaped its creation, and why we should support it at the box office this coming weekend.


I pursued a career in media and entertainment, because I wanted to educate people, about people. And starting out, even though that was my goal, the stories I was telling never really reflected my identity. I think in some ways I felt the way a lot of minority kids do — that my culture, my identity… weren’t as valid or important as those of others. I felt like for me to be validated as a director, I needed to make stories about other cultures. Fast forward years of struggle later, and it’s such a wakeup call to see that my first feature is full of South Asians, and it’s inspired by the stories of my immigrant parents and those of dozens of immigrants I interviewed. And it is being distributed by a major distributor in a huge release across the country, and audiences have loved it. I think it was a lesson for me, that I’ve since embraced — nobody will respect us, until we respect ourselves. And our stories matter. We just need to support ourselves, and each other… and people will learn who we are.


Set in the 1970s, The Tiger Hunter is the story of Sami Malik, a young Indian man who travels to  America to become an engineer in order to impress his childhood crush and live up to the legacy of his father—a legendary tiger hunter—back home. When Sami’s job falls through, he takes a low-end position and joins with a gang of oddball friends in hopes of convincing his childhood sweetheart that he’s far more successful than he truly is…or perhaps ever could be.

Tiger Hunter is a comedy about an immigrant in 1970s Chicago — but it also tells the story about a talented South Asian engineer who enters an industry where he is a minority–and shows that industry how much it needs him and the other immigrants he befriends. Sami and his band of undervalued engineers work on solving a microwave problem of the issues, but his struggle — both the laughs and the heartache — will no doubt be familiar to those of diverse backgrounds working in engineering and tech industries today. After all, so many of these people are where they are because of the hilarious journeys of folks like Sami.

While featuring a Muslim-American lead in an authentic role in a largely minority cast, this comedy-drama deals with issues of immigration and diversity with a light touch.  It is a timely and topical comedy that captures a young immigrant’s pursuit for success, love and the American dream with humor and heart.   The Tiger Hunter is a charming comedy bolstered by vibrant storytelling and an endearing comic spirit.


If we want the entertainment industry to start reflecting the diversity we see around us, we as consumers need to show the demand and support for it. This film, which showcases a quite rare representation of a fun and authentic South Asian Muslim who immigrates to America, has the chance to expose mainstream audiences to characters and types of people they never got to know before.  In our current climate, it’s absolutely crucial that the theatrical debut of this film demonstrates huge success.



After a successful festival run, The Tiger Hunter had its major theatrical release nationwide with Regal Cinemas in coalition with Shout Factory! this September. It played in more than twenty cities (fortunately, we were usually opening night or closing night, and won several awards along the way). We went to Austin, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and more.  And so now, between you and us…we have a deal with dozens of markets, but rolled out in segments. It’s a great deal but similar to many successful independent films; we are still responsible for a majority of the grassroots marketing. To ensure its success, we rely on nonprofits like you, key influencers and leaders, and our uncles and aunties in the community to build out our audiences and create support for this coming week at the box office.
A writer and director, Lena gained experience at companies like Participant Media (Syriana, The Kite Runner) before focusing on directing her own work. Lena has directed commercials, films and music videos for international artists such as Maher Zain and her videos have been broadcast on TV across the world and received over 30 million hits on YouTube.  Lena graduated from the prestigious UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, after which she spent years gaining experience at renowned film companies. She recently sold her first television show and is now working on another TV show, a movie and a children’s book. Her first film, The Tiger Hunter, debuted September 22nd. If you would like to get involved in helping spread the word, please contact Christine Chen, Director of Community Relations at or 202-649-0130.