Super excited to bring more news on my feature, White Elephant! We’re an Official Selection of the 2021 Canadian Film Fest, and will be screening on the Super Channel on April 2nd at 9PM and 12AM EST. All you have to do is subscribe for a month, which is no more than the cost of a movie ticket. If you already have Amazon Prime, you actually get the Super Channel for the first month free! This will be our first screening of the year, and it’s my first time screening with this festival, so it should be a really fun experience.
And ICYMI, check out this very nice review of the film on Exclaim! which came out during our premiere.
More good news! White Elephant took home 2 more awards at the Vancouver Asian Film Festival for Best Canadian Feature and Best Overall Performance. While making the film, I would’ve never thought that it could have received the accolades that it has so far. So at the risk of sounding trite, it’s all been so humbling. Thank you to VAFF, Barbara, the Jury and the staff for being such an encouraging force in my career.
In other exciting news, the film has also been selected by the Mosaic International South Asian Film Festival and the Vancouver International South Asian Film Festival. These are our first South Asian film festivals, so we can’t wait until we finally get to share it with South Asian audiences. It screens at MISAFF between Dec 4 to Dec 12 online Canada-wide for the duration of the festival on the TIFF Lightbox platform. Tickets go for $5 for our film or $25 for an all-access pass. The film will screen at VISAFF on Dec 11 as the Opening Night Film (another first for us!), see the website for details.
I have a couple announcements to make that I’m absolutely elated about. The first is that White Elephant took home four awards (yes, four!) the other night at the Reelworld Film Festival. We were awarded Outstanding Feature Film, Standout Director, Standout Writer, and Standout Actress. It was a joyous live awards presentation night for the entire cast and crew, and I’m still in disbelief about it. But I am incredibly humbled and honoured. Having seen so many films at the festival, knowing what we were up against, it was stunning that we were honoured with multiple awards. I can’t thank the jury, Tonya Williams, and the Reelworld team enough for giving us the privilege of representing all the remarkable films at the festival. We’re bending over backwards (see what I did there?) with excitement about taking this momentum forward with the film.
The second major announcement I wanted to make was that the film’s next stop will be at the 2020 Vancouver Asian Film Festival. This is once again a coming home party for us as I’ve had a few films that have screened there, and I couldn’t be more ecstatic to present the film on the other side of the country with them. Like Reelworld it will be held almost entirely online due to COVID-19, but our film will be available to watch Canada-wide for only $5 during a 24-hour period. Tickets are already available for pre-order here! If you haven’t caught the film yet, here’s your chance – the festival will be running from Nov 1 to Nov 9, so there’s plenty of time to get your tickets, and watch the film over your busy schedules. Hope to “see” you there!
White Elephant will be making its World Premiere at the 2020 Reelworld Film Festival. We’re so honoured by the selection and stoked that we get to premiere with them. They screened a little web series called, Millions many moons ago, so it’s very fitting that we’re back. It feels like coming home again.
Due to COVID-19, the festival will be entirely online, but it makes it easier, more than ever, for many of you to watch. The festival runs from Oct 14 to Oct 19 and you can, in fact, watch the film any time between those dates (Ontario only). However, the suggested screening time is Oct 15 at 6PM EST, as we’ll be doing a live Q&A with cast and crew immediately after at 7:30PM EST.
I recently directed a spot for the YMCA of Greater Toronto for its brand new TotalFit class, created by Sherry Perez. Had a blast working on this with the great people of the YMCA, as well as Director of Photography, A A Scott McClellan.
Nothing like making a fitness spot to motivate (*ahem* guilt *ahem*) you into working out more! The spot is now available to view on the homepage or you can visit the Commercial section.
Here’s a new spot I directed for a fitness technology brand called Magenxx. This one was especially challenging as it had a lot of moving parts – especially the amount of VFX to convey the functionality of their scanning technology.
But I had a great time putting it all together and working with the Magenxx team, who gave me unprecedented creative control over the result, our brilliant VFX artist, Matthew Nayman, and our uber talented Director of Photography, Dave Lam (Second Jen, Deep Six), who I collaborated with for the very first time (and hopefully many more times to come). Have a look! It’s available now to view on the homepage or you can visit the Commercial section.
This past summer I furiously worked on my first feature film. An early short version of the film is exclusively part of an exhibition with the Varley Art Gallery in Markham called Tout-Monde: Markham that opens today and runs until January 5th, 2020. In the Varley’s own words:
‘Tout-Monde: Markham’ seeks to engage with the delicate, yet timely discourse about encountering and representing the other. The project is inspired by the ideas of Martiniquais poet and philosopher Edouard Glissant (1928 – 2011). Building on his in-depth explorations of the history of slavery, and of créolisation, Glissant imagined le Tout-Monde (“the whole-world”) where “relationships between two or more identities that are masters to themselves, would rely on changing by exchanging.”
With its diverse communities, Markham offers an interesting context within which to explore Glissant’s ideas. Six artists working with film were commissioned to engage with community members from backgrounds different from their own, thus stimulating the exploration of various means of perception and interaction with others. Ultimately, this project aims to generate a series of personal or collective encounters between artists and communities, as well as between neighbours, between friends and between strangers.
I had the honour of being one of these commissioned artists.
Set in 1996, my film explores the coming-of-age story of Pooja, a South Asian teenage girl, growing up in a majority-minority neighbourhood. The stark contrast between her culturally familiar environment and the White-dominated pop culture she’s obsessed with, manifests into a sudden crush with a local White teenage boy who looks just like the teen heartthrobs she watches on TV. Her relentless pursuit of the boy creates a hostile cultural divide between their friends, that forces her to re-evaluate her identity and confront who she thought she was. But, this isn’t a love story. It’s a self-love story.
Ultimately, the film is about a girl who longs to belong in a world that insists on seeing her differently, and the strength she finds to be unique and become the person she wants to be.
This project was one of the most difficult films I’ve ever had to make, so I’d be remiss to not mention the amazing organizations and people whom without, “White Elephant” would not be possible.
Thank you to our Executive Producer, Elegoa Cultural Productions and Catherine Sicot, who commissioned the film through the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, New Chapter Program, in partnership with the Varley Art Gallery of Markham and made with the support of the Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto (LIFT). If it wasn’t for these invaluable organizations who passionately support the arts, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do.
Thank you to Christopher Nguyen, my Co-Producer on the film, who’s relentless and boundless support of my work brought this story to life. Thank you to the Associate Producers, Sasha Fevez and Dave Lam (also the Director of Photography), who are the backbone of the film and to this day continue to push it to the finish line. Big love to the charismatic cast of “White Elephant” whose youthful and positive energy always brought the mood up on set when things got tough, and still managed to be as professional as any veteran actors I’ve worked with: Zaarin Bushra, Gurleen Singh, Dulmika Hapuarachchi, Jesse Nasmith, Amanda Catibog, Kalyna Fisher, Riley James Myers, Yahya Amin, Kumar Kapasi, Kessandra Cook, Zara Ali, Idrissa Sanogo, Nick Anthony Lopez, Aaron Bernard Joseph, Matt Haffner, Kaitlin Vian, Riyad Hussain, and Victoria Ventresca. And last but not least, my enormous appreciation and gratitude to the dedicated and extremely hardworking crew of “White Elephant” who poured their blood, sweat, tears, and hearts and souls into the film for the past few months: Marissa Wong, Janneke Tenbroek, Kendra Legault, Camille Lortie, Alam Loyo, James M. Findlay, Tomasz Kurek, Matthew Meszoly, Frederic Fontaine, James Ramlal, Oleksii Furdiiak, Hannah Garcia, Dana Little, Samantha Ryan, Ifenna Okeke, Eric Reid, Tammy Everett, Alejandro Contreras, Mike Jeff Wong, Cihan Sahin, Alex Hotton, and Steve Kerswill.
There will be more people to thank in the future as we finish post-production on the full feature, and send the film into the film festival circuit, but for now, please check out a sneak peek of “White Elephant” at the Varley if you’re in the area and can spare the time. It’ll be running for over three months, so there’s plenty of opportunity! The best part, which I failed to mention, is that admission to the gallery is absolutely FREE.
I’ll make sure to update everyone with a trailer and film festival screenings as they come!
For those who haven’t been able to catch my latest short film, “Ma”, it will be airing today on the CBC for their Canadian Reflections program at 11:30PM ET/PT. It will be posted online shortly after at this link. Unfortunately, it will only be available online in Canada. I’ll make sure to update if it becomes available outside of Canada. Please check it out if you have the chance!