Canada, Pakistan, UK, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Thailand | 2017 | 81 min | English | Director Attending |
This autobiographical documentary relates the challenges of growing up as a gay man in a close-knit Pakistani Muslim family, where homosexuality is regarded as sexually deviant and shameful. The title ‘Abu’ (Urdu for ‘father’) arose when director Arshad Khan’s own father—whom he both deeply loved and resented—died. Shot over five years in Pakistan and, later, Arshad’s adopted homeland of Canada, the film tackles multigenerational family dysfunction, sexual abuse, homophobia and xenophobia, using an amalgam of VHS home videos, animation, Flip-cam and iPhone footage, interviews with Khan’s mother, father and siblings, and Bollywood clips. A deeply personal story of self-discovery and familial reconciliation, Abu boasts both a charming lyricism and a sense of good humour.
Born in Pakistan, Arshad Khan studied at Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema in Montreal, Canada, and went on to make the short films Threadbare (2008), Brownie (2011), Doggoned (2012), Zen (2012) and Valery’s Suitcase (2016). “It was very difficult to re-watch footage of my father in the hospital, dying,” says Arshad of Abu’s editing process. “And I was very frightened throughout because I had to make a film that didn’t destroy or compromise the integrity of our family while at the same time being sincere and true to myself … On a whole other level, the film just explodes and embraces every aspect of indigenous and gender rights, immigration, religion and the whole issue of sexuality. It’s complicated and universal.”