Being Muslim and Gay: Meet Arshad Khan, Director of 'Abu'

Being Muslim and Gay: Meet Arshad Khan, Director of 'Abu'

by The Daily Eye News Desk May 21 2018, 4:50 pm Estimated Reading Time: 3 mins, 33 secs

The 9th edition of KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival will be held from 23-25 May in Mumbai at Liberty Cinema and Metro Inox. The festival will play 140 films from 45 countries and the theme is ‘Together With Pride’.

There are many films focused on families of LGBTQ persons that will be playing at the festival, and one of the key films is the centrepiece documentary feature film from Canada – ABU, directed by Arshad Khan, who recounts his personal journey as a Muslim gay man and his complicated relationship with his family, especially his father, as they migrate from Pakistan to Canada. The film has been winning numerous accolades all over the world and was recently released in theatres across Canada.

The Daily Eye chats up with the director about his film which will screen on Saturday May 26th 12.30pm at KASHISH 2018.

Q: What was it like growing up gay in Pakistan and then Canada?
A: Life is not easy for anyone. But when you live under the constant judgment of people, it is totally exhausting - be it Pakistan, India or Canada. And when we migrate, we bring our mentality with us. It was easier when I escaped the Pakistani circle and decided to breathe a little outside of that. I recommend Canadian universities for everyone.

Q:  The film trains its lens on the South Asian, Muslim gay experience? Tell us something about it​.
A: There is a great brotherhood and camaraderie between queers world-over. ​ ​It is the shared experiences that connect us. It is similar to how Indians and Pakistanis connect so strongly once they go out of their respective countries where people cannot even tell them apart. There is no special religious, Islamic bond between Muslims though. I feel it is not the religious aspect of our identities that connects us. It is the cultural aspect. ​

Q: How has your family reacted to the movie? You have used a lot of archival family videos.
A: ​Horrified. However, the ones who have watched it, absolutely love it. ​​Slowly they are coming around, especially my mother, because people are giving such a positive response to the film. ​ 

Source : The Globe and Mail

Q: The father - son relationship forms the dominant theme? Tell us something about it.
A: This is a documentary for everyone who has ever had a parent, anyone who has ever migrated, anyone who has ever been upset about the state of the world. Of course, I have made this film to make life easier for LGBTQI desi and South Asian people​ and it is predominantly a family film so people can bring their parents and elders and help them better understand who we are and our struggles. ​

Q: What are the challenges in making an autobiographical film?
A: ​Ethical and moral questions arise when you make a film using shared family archives. It took me a long time to negotiate the terms with my family and to try and make a film that is beyond just my family, but one that deals with a universal story and a bigger picture. I had to keep that bigger purpose in mind when making the film. Our archives will be lost and gone but this film that I have contextualized will stay forever for our future generations. They will know now who we are and where we came from. It is a very special gift to them.

Q: Bollywood binds South Asia together and is important in the film. Tell us about it.
A: ​Indian cinema binds us together. Not Bollywood. Indian cinematic expression and voice is what goes beyond borders. Bollywood often makes films that have nationalistic or jingoistic slant. As does Lollywood. And I think that is very problematic. However, Indian cinema predates the scourge of partition and that is important to understand. And cinema has a universal language that connects us at a human level and well beyond religion, race, cast and creed. 

Spot Registrations to attend the 9th KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film festival are available at the venue Liberty Cinema. Details of all films and schedule can be viewed at www.mumbaiqueerfest.com

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