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.
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!
It’s been a long hiatus, but I hope 2019 is treating everyone well. I just wanted to announce that “Ma” is now available on all international Air Canada flights between May 1st and July 31st of this year. Special thank you to Reel Asian and Air Canada for making this happen.
This is a first for one of my films, so it’s really exciting to have a film screen in the skies! I mean, no one really has anything to do on these long flights, so what excuse do you have not to watch some Canadian film? If you happen to be on one of these flights, make sure to check it out. Send me a picture if you do! Because unfortunately I won’t be flying during that time. Boo.
Hope everyone had a fun Halloween. Just a quick update that my short film, “Ma” will be making its World Premiere at the Reel Asian International Film Festival in my hometown of Toronto, Canada on Nov 13 at 10:30AM and screening again on Nov 14 at 1:30PM in the 401 Commons, 401 Richmond St W. This is the first time that one of my films will be making its World Premiere in my home base, so it’s really special for us. Family and friends – we will see you there!
Shortly after, the film will be having its American Premiere on the same day, Nov 13 at 4PM for the San Diego Asian Film Festival in the UltraStar Cinemas, Mission Valley. If you’re from California, hopefully you can make it!
I wish I could be updating here a lot more, but there’s been so many projects that I make that have to be kept under wraps. But finally I can show you the trailer for my latest short film, Ma. There are already a couple festival screenings we’ve confirmed that I’m not able to announce yet, but I will make sure to update you here!
Outside of this film, I’ve been working away on a YouTube channel that is hopefully set to launch by the end of the year. I’m producing the videos with a ton of my filmmaking friends on this channel, and using it as an outlet for them and our local art community. It’s quite a departure from the type of work I direct, but a fun experiment I’ve been using as a different creative outlet. I’ll tell you more as developments come.