Fantasia 2017: Abu (2017)

Kicking off the Fantasia Festival this year for myself surprisingly is a documentary called Abu. It screens on July 16th at 2pm at Theatre D.B. Clarke. You an find the Festival information HERE.

ABU : Father (2017)

Director/Writer/Producer: Arshad Khan

As a gay man, Filmmaker Arshad Khan examines his troubled relationship with his devout, Muslim father Abu. Using family archives and movies, Khan explores his struggle with his identity and compares it to his parents attempts to fit into Canada. – IMDB

Documentaries aim to educate, invoke thoughts about certain issues and tell its audience a true story which generally is the raw truth. Director, writer and producer of Abu takes us on a deeply personal journey of his life. While the movie Abu, meaning father, entails a heavy focus on his troubled relationship with his own father from values and views, his story dives into deeper issues of assimilation into Canada as a immigrant family, particularly as a Pakistani family. It also looks at his personal struggles and coming of age of being a gay man and in this also looks at the struggle between his family of modernism and traditionalism. Abu says quite a lot in its 80 minutes run-time.

No one can judge someone else’s life story, as we can’t judge Arshad Khan’s. This is his journey. For that, he exposes many truths and realizations from his youth to the present; starting his story from letting the audience understand where his parents came from and how they met and got married. His documentary laces together video clips from back in Pakistan and snippets of popular Bollywood movies (and performances, etc) and interviews with a few members of his family as he narrates his story step by step, bearing his observations, feelings and experiences. There is no doubt in our minds that this documentary shows us his hardships and it should relate to many people: immigrants, men, LGBT community, those growing up in Pakistan, those who relate to generation gap issues with parents, and the list goes on. Even if it doesn’t relate to it, this story tells truths about how he grew up and some very poignant issues ring up particular issues that are hidden away from other’s eyes, be it because of conservatism or religion. However, what is a downfall of this documentary is that while some events may seem to set a platform for various issues, there are mundane parts that make this documentary lose a bit of where it wants to take its audience. While it may seem necessary in his journey, some bits are extras that only serve to extend the running time and doesn’t serve to add to what this documentary is trying to portray.

The creativity of using real life video clips and interviews from family as well as adding in the modernization of cinema which addressed the issues he was talking about, helped create good supporting material to his narration. Plus, it is impressive to see the use of the once familiar VCR static fuzziness be used as a transition tool here. The documentary itself starts off with an animated sequence and these sequences do appear sporadically throughout this journey. The experiences he tells us about in this personal journey also resounds on many levels and highlights mostly hidden issues that many don’t talk about publicly. What Abu does well and truly deserves our attention is telling this poignant and emotional story, particularly in the last third (or second half) of the documentary as the issues truly come to light and Arshad Khan talks about dealing with issues such as anger, frustration and forgiveness as well as the change of dynamics not only with his father but his mother as well. Perhaps it takes a while to get into understanding why anyone would want to hear someone else’s story but give this documentary some time to get its ducks in a row and everything truly comes together in a meaningful, thought-provoking and educational way regarding religion, immigration and family.

***As a personal thought, most of you know that I’m not an immigrant but my parents are. I’m not part of the LGBTQ community. However, this documentary still managed to strike a chord especially in some of the later scenes. Its the family aspect that truly gets me. This goes to a point that in many ways, this film brings up many issues the relate in a multi-faceted way and that problems can transcend through different people because of similar instances. For that, there was one part that truly had me emotional.***

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