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.***

My Father, The Artist!

Today’s Father’s Day! I had a gap of not celebrating it in between my father’s passing in late 2006 till after I met my boyfriend in 2008.  Today we’ll be heading over to bring some baked goods (which I need to do after I get this written and posted up). I’ve been thinking about it all week as to how to write about my father.  I’ve already written a very deep post about how the passing of my father has impacted me in December last year (you can read that HERE if you’d like).  As much as I’m still learning to let go, there isn’t a day I don’t think about my father.  Today I’d like to share a little about him because I was always so proud of him.

My fave Valentine's card to him and a picture of my dad and baby me :)

My fave Valentine’s card to him and a picture of my dad and baby me 🙂

My dad was amazing (as are most fathers, when we think about it).  He was smart and devoted to his very complicated work as an actuary for 30 years.  He was an amazing scholar but gave up finishing his PhD because he was bored.  He was hardworking and mega committed.

Even when he was very busy, he would find time to hone his artistic talents.  I remember him taking me to his  Chinese painting classes.  My dad may not be a worldwide famous artist but he was in my heart.  A lot of the art hanging on our walls was his work.  He focused mostly on Chinese Painting and Chinese Calligraphy.  I can still remember the days when he patiently sat down with me and taught me how to do Chinese Calligraphy.  All the the energy to teach me the tricks in mastering the stroke.

My dad's painting

My dad’s painting

My favorite is that painting of  bird. He always did amazing with flowers.  The best one he did is now with my Aunt in Hong Kong but we have one thats very pretty also!

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My dad wasn’t only crafty with Chinese painting but he love all art.  I remember going to the Museum of Fine Arts in Montreal every year on museum day.  There were times that we’d talk about how he feels and what not.  I may not be able to draw past stick people but I always was up to learning more about my dad’s interests.  At home, he would take newspaper clippings of animals and sketch them right on the spot. Just like this one…

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Or he would love to sketch our Siamese Cat and later came back to liven up the picture with the hunt of a mouse.  Isn’t it adorable?

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My dad’s art didn’t end there. He sang Cantonese Opera and even if I wasn’t a huge fan of it, I was at every single performance he did.  After so many days, months, years of listening to him practice and practice and perfect his skills, he was one of my favorite Cantonese opera singers and he always lit up the stage when he performed.  Even when I would tell him to let me sleep when he was practicing at midnight because I had an exam the next day, I still loved hearing him.

My dad's performance in 2003

My dad’s performance in 2003

He was one of the reasons that I stopped putting time into the Hollywood movies.  For a few years, there was no time but seeing movies was my time with my dad. We watched lots of movies together.  If he was alive, I’d have put together a movie marathon and sat through the Back to the Future, Indiana Jones, The English Patient, Moonstruck, and probably wrapped it up with the Blu-ray version of Phantom of the Opera live performance (because thats his favorite and I’d have saved up to bring him to see it live one day). I’d have baked him some chocolate eclairs and Mille-feuilles desserts because those are his favorites.  I don’t have the chance to do that anymore but every once in a while, when I do/see something that reminds of my dad or that he’d like, I will still have him in my thoughts.

My dad taught me a lot of things with his actions.  I was happy to hear his passion and feel his hard-work and it motivated me.  Whatever it was, my dad may not have been perfect but to me, I will always be proud of who he was, the things he’s accomplished and miss him every single day.

Happy Father’s Day to you all! I know many of you are fathers and fathers to be! Have a great day with the family!

When is it Okay…

Christmas holidays are always in full kick in during December for me.  This year I’ve been trying to bring it on completely on this site, however I still can’t escape my normal first week build up of sorrow.  I debated long and hard before I posted this up.  My blog is about being happy and believe me, every single day I am grateful for everything I have.

But during this week, as it approaches the two consecutive days of the whole year where my emotions are messed and mixed up.

Six years ago today, my dad was in the hospital kept under for the past week and being treated for severe pneumonia.  It was my mom’s birthday. Imagine the pain it was for her.  I had exams going on at my second year of university.  Tough times, right? In situations like this, a call from the hospital is all it takes to bring the situation down to hell.  In the very early hours of December 8th, my dad gave in and passed away.  I am very grateful that at least it wasn’t on my mom’s birthday…So if you’ve experienced someone passing away, the procedures afterwards are long and stressful.  You need to wrap up paperwork and transfer accounts, not to mention figure out all the details of the funeral and this drags on for at least the following 6 months.

I’m not here to share a sad story about my dad’s passing.  Its more the story of how to move forward from the past.  How long does it take to mourn? My best friend has mentioned to me before that I’ve never mourned my father.  Between being strong for my mom and the long painful process running back and forth helping her with the paperwork, there was really no time to think about that. Fact is, there wasn’t just mourning…there was a deeper aspect to my father that I never share often and that I have a hard time accepting.  Maybe its something you all understand better than me and maybe what I need is some closure.

Just to give you a little snapshot, this song actually reminds me of my relationship with my dad:

My dad was the typical Chinese man from previous generation who didn’t show his emotions much and didn’t compliment much (or at all).  Of course, there were still short sweet moments I’ve shared with my dad and I treasure those. They were few but still, especially today and tomorrow, it is when these memories stream into my mind, both the good and the bad.

After he passed, it was when I realize that a good part of my life was spent on trying to do things to make my father proud, however it seemed that I never did actually get to that point.  I was just never that perfect daughter.  Its something that I regret and every year, sorrow and regret consume me at this time of the year.  The closer midnight approaches, these emotions overcome me and starts weighing on me.

Tell me…

When is it okay to stop regretting the things you have never accomplished? When is it alright to get past trying hard to make someone who you love but isn’t around anymore proud?

I hope that if he were here, he would be proud of what I have accomplished so far…but I will never know.

I promise you, by the end of this weekend, things will be back to normal.  I’m staying strong and moving forward!