I’m always excited to see Asian faces behind and on the camera because we rarely do in the Canadian film industry. And I’m always happy to see emerging young talents passionate about changing the landscape. Last year, I attended Unsung Voices feature at Reel Asian Film Festival – a collection of seven films created by young Asian Canadian talents for the youth video production program. That’s where I first saw Haaris‘ film – a story of a Pakistani Canadian girl negotiating her interests with her mother’s expectation of beauty – a generational and cultural struggle that many young Asian Canadians could sympathize with. Take a look at the interview below and learn more about the emerging filmmaker Haaris & his “favourite” visual artist!
Side note: For anyone who’s interested in learning more about filmmaking and how to pitch your ideas, check out Haaris’ workshop: Let’s Not Rush to Write a Screenplay! – Mirae
Can you tell us a little bit about your art practice?
Hello! I’m a filmmaker currently enrolled in York University for film production. I haven’t figured out what I want to specialize in within the realm of filmmaking. So far I’ve tried writing, directing and cinematography. I’m still open to exploring the other areas of production, but right now I think I have my mind wrapped around writing a few screenplays.
I had the pleasure of seeing your short film “Goree” at Reel Asian’s Unsung Voices, and I realized I’ve rarely seen films created by Asians with Asian faces about Asian Canadian experiences. What’s your experience engaging in film production in Canada, specifically Toronto, as a film student and a filmmaker?
First of all, thank you for checking it out! As a student it’s been strange. Prior to entering Reel Asian I had no idea an Asian Canadian community of film existed in Toronto (AND it sucked not knowing that). The examples of success within the industry didn’t look like me, and it made me feel like I had no chance. Then I came across Reel Asian in the summer and I was like WOAH- I can be a filmmaker and live a stable life! That feeling was so uplifting even though it was super simple – all the more reasons I strongly advocate for representation behind and onscreen. As a filmmaker studying at York, I managed to make a short film that consisted of an all Asian cast, carrying themes and dialogue that only the South Asian community would fully understand. I’m happy I could make it how I wanted to without having to change certain elements of the film to please others. It’s hard to talk about my experience in the industry though because I don’t think I’ve stepped into it yet – but I’m hoping to see/make honest representation of Asian-Canadians in Canadian film in the coming years.
Going back to your film, it really brought to attention the ongoing cultural tensions within identity politics amongst Asian Canadian, or in this case, the Pakistani Canadian community – what are some themes or questions you are currently exploring or interested in exploring more?
Thank you! I’m glad the film could bring some light on the issue. I think a lot of my ideas stem from my critiques on particular ideologies within the South Asian community. Right now I’m focusing on notions of masculinity – this is coming from a really personal place so I’m hoping to really flesh out the idea and script before I even think about making it.
You also engage in photography and graphic design – what role do these artistic medium have in your creative career?
Photography is still something that’s very much a part in my life. I shoot often for fun and for freelance work (weddings, birthdays, portraits). Most of my hobby shooting comes from my phone and I really love having a camera in my pocket. I don’t do much graphic designing anymore, but I think it’s still embedded into what I create (I swear it will take me forever to decide on the font for film titles/credits).
What can we look forward to, in your creative career, in the next few months?
I have a film that I’m finishing up called “Cake and Insulin.” I’m hoping to submit it to local festivals during the summer time (and hopefully get it screened). It’s definitely something I’ve poured a lot of my heart and time into so I want see it on a huge screen more than anything. After that I think I’m going to slow down and really think about what I want to make – I think sometimes I get caught up in this idea that I need to constantly create something. I have an idea to make something, but it’s very much going to be a passion project for myself.
Lastly, what does your identity mean to you?
I’m really still figuring this out. I feel like I can’t identify as a Pakistani-Canadian most of the times. I’ve only been to Pakistan once when I was three years old so all I know is here. I cling on to my South Asian identity without really knowing Pakistan. I feel like I haven’t explored my roots to the extent that I want to. I’m prideful of my South Asian heritage and I want to know more about it.
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