Three South Asian filmmakers attended the BFI London Film Festival (October 4-15) launch event and we were able to speak to them about their films being selected…
THERE are several features of interest to us among the 250 or so lined up for this year’s London Film Festival (LFF).
The filmmakers behind ‘Unicorns’; ‘The Taste of Mango’; and ‘In Camera’ all spoke to www.asianculturevulture.com at the launch event.
James Krishna Floyd is best known to audiences at home in the UK, as Dr Gabriel Verma in the ITV Kerala cottage hospital drama, ‘The Good Karma Hospital’, and he has also been in a number of feature films and first came to prominence in ‘My Brother the Devil’ (2012) – now he along with its director, Sally El Hosaini, the Welsh-Egyptian auteur who also made the stirring ‘The Swimmer’ , have teamed up behind the camera to direct what is Floyd’s first writer-co-directed script, ‘Unicorns’.
It’s a story about a straight white Essex single Dad (Ben Hardy) stumbling into desire and then possible romance with Ayesha (Jason Patel). This seems an unlikely romantic pairing at one level – Ayesha is a queer drag South Asian nightclub performer.
Loosely based on the real-life experiences of Asifa Lahore who was billed as ‘Britain’s first out drag Muslim drag queen’, this is a personal and powerful exploration of modern masculinity as rendered by El Hosaini and actor Floyd’s first full length scripted feature.
Floyd told wwww.asianculturevutlure.com: “It’s very personal and it’s very much about identity and fluidity. It is basically a cross cultural romance and about a British Indian drag queen who falls in love with a straight white single Dad from Essex.”
He said he met Lahore some seven years ago and was intrigued and inspired by her.
“She was the only out Muslim drag queen and she’s actually transitioned now to a trans woman. She’s come out twice, it’s amazing. She’s an incredible human – she’s a real life unicorn.”
He said the film covers the gayasian scene in and around greater London. “I always knew about the scene, I had my own experience when I was younger exploring my own sexuality. It was me knowing Lahore that made me realise this is the world that I wanted to use to express my own feelings on identity in my filmmaking debut feature.
“I am tired of mainstream culture lumping identity labels on us. We’re just human beings and this is how we wanted to express ourselves. And look, we really believe there’s a whole new generation out there and I think millions of people all over the world can relate to this film and what we’re trying to say.”
He said that both the Essex, Indian and single dad elements were drawn from his own family experiences.
“The reason I made him a single Dad is because I have a young kid myself. And I have family in East London and Essex who are white and very similar to him. So a lot of the film is drawn from my own experiences. The Indian family is very much inspired by own Indian family.”
Appearing in the documentary competition section is Chloe Abraham’s ‘The Taste of Mango’ – this is a multi-generational tale and a record of one family’s explicit and unspoken dialogue between grandmother, mother and daughter, and across countries – Britain and Sri Lanka.
Abrahams attended the launch with her mother.
“The film moves across Sri Lanka and London and explores at the beginning we learn about the mango and the idea of inheritance and something sweet.”
Chloe is in a little bit of the film but essentially narrates it.
“It’s about these intimate moment with my mum and my grandma and the difficulties that we all face.”
Secrets, we posed.
“There are always family secrets,” said Chloe Abrahams enigmatically. She said the film was a way of getting her mother and grandmother together to talk about hidden subjects between them.
Naqqash Khalid’s ‘In Camera’ features Nabhaan Rizwan as Asian actor ‘Aden’ – as he tries to build a career in the trade.
Khalid told acv: “It’s a fairy tale about a young actor trying to navigate the world of acting.
“I was really interested in acting as a vehicle or metaphor to talk about identity. It felt like the easiest way to express lots of things I wanted to say.”
The film is described as a showbiz satire and he told acv that he did not write it with any particular Asian actor in mind.
“He was the first person I met and it was a no brainer. He’s incredibly talented – a dream collaborator.”
Manchester-based Khalid said the film is not set tightly in a particular location.
“It’s a bit of a non-place really. There’s a dreamlike quality throughout the film. I am excited about having conversations with audiences about the film,” said the University of Salford English Literature graduate.
Filmmaker Adura Onashile also spoke to us about her film, ‘Girl’ – which charts the relationship between a 25-year single black mother and her young daughter and is set in Glasgow.
“It’s about the trauma and love that exists between them,” Onashile said.
This is the first LFF under the stewardship of Kristy Matheson, BFI Festivals Director.
She told acv at the launch event last Thursday (August 31), she was thrilled she could finally share the full programme and responded to a question from us about the diversity of the programme line-up.
“In a city like the London, the whole world is here. And so for us, we really want to make sure that we have got a programme where we think anyone ould look at the programme and say that’s for me. That’s fine – but they should also take a chance on something – that’s the dream – you are going to pick one thing that you don’t know.”
She said she didn’t feel the ongoing writers and actors strike in the US would have a huge impact on LFF.
“We’ve got a lot of fun things lined up for our red carpets and we think they’ll be just as vibrant and fun as audiences have experienced before. There will be certain members of those unions who won’t travel and for very good reason. We definitely support people’s right to take industrial action. For us, everyone is invited.”
We expect to run another piece previewing the full range of films of interest to www.asianculturevulture.com soon and also met the filmmakers Ali Catterall and Jane Giles who have made a documentary about the iconic former ‘Scala!!!’ film theatre in King’s Cross, London and talked to many famous artists who used to watch features there. We aslo talked to Neil Boyle and Kirk Hendry from the animated feature, ‘Kensuke’s Kingdom’.
Public booking for London Film Festival (October 4-15) begins on September 12. BFI Members and other privilege holders can book earlier.
For the full programme and privilege and public booking, see https://whatson.bfi.org.uk/lff/Online/default.asp