Documentary filmmaker Arshad Khan decodes a misunderstood community

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Pakistani-Canadian director Arshad Khan’s upcoming documentary film ABU, which opens in Toronto, the GTA, Montreal and Vancouver on April 13 should really be appealing to the South Asian community as well as the mainstream because it will help in decoding a misunderstood community.

In an interview with Can-India, director Arshad Khan said the idea behind this documentary came to him when he was making a 5-minute video after his dad died in 2011. “I realized we had a large collection of audio and video tapes which was unusual in the pre-internet and smartphone era,” he said.

It is a deeply personal documentary, ABU (meaning father in Urdu) features Khan narrating his experience of coming out as a gay man, immigrating to Canada and navigating his complicated relationship with his close-knit Pakistani-Muslim family.

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The film begins as a quest to explore Arshad’s relationship with his father and develops into a journey of self-discovery, brought to life through home video footage, animation and clips of classic Bollywood movies.

Arshad Khan immigrated to Canada with his family in 1991. He came from a very liberal Pakistani family that totally changed after they came here. “We come here thinking we will have opportunity and a new life but in reality, no one shows you how to get around. We find that we don’t dress and talk Canadian and I experienced so much prejudice from second-generation kids from our own community,” says Arshad.

Arshad believes that the initial hardships faced by new immigrants forces them to retreat into their own cultural and religious space which would not have been the case if they didn’t immigrate to Canada.

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“I think that retreat is reactionary. When my brother started dating a white girl, there was a talk of it being the ruin of our culture. In Islamabad, my family would be okay with it and would even consider it cool,” he explains.

In the documentary, Arshad delves into how difficult a process it is to come out gay. “The hardest part is to come out to yourself and accept the truth. I was 22 and as a gay person you realize that family is not blood or culture-related, we realize we have to make our own family,” he said.

He hopes straight Canadians and South Asians watch his film because there is a tendency for straight people to dismiss such films as being of interest to only to the LGBT community which is not at all the case.

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“I hope many people watch this film because it will help people to understand the prejudice they practice in their own lives. This film speaks to all and is very entertaining,” he said.

The film is also extremely topical as it explores the impact of sexual assault from a male survivor’s perspective, and examines the intersection of religion, tradition and sexuality. It has won numerous film festival awards, including the audience award at Montreal’s IMAGE+NATION, and the Jury Prize for Best Feature Film at the Vancouver International South Asian Film Festival.
You can watch the trailer at: – CINEWS

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