Sneak Peek of “White Elephant” at ‘Tout-Monde: Markham’ Exhibition
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!