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FLEFF Intern Voices

The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival from the interns' point of view

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Posted by Jackie Marusiak at 4:01PM
Film poster courtesy of gray matter productions.

Blog post written by Jackie Marusiak, Documentary Studies and Production ‘21, FLEFF Intern.


When all humans are guided by a set of rules, it’s time for a new set of rules.


This statement jumped out at me on the poster for Abu (Arshad Khan, Canada/Pakistan, 2017). Fitting for FLEFF’s 2019 theme, the documentary centers around disruption of cultural norms and traditional religious values.


Abu explores issues of migration, sexuality and religion through Khan’s relationship with his father. The title “Abu” means father in Urdu, the official language of Pakistan. Combining archival film, observational footage and Bollywood films, Khan weaves a portrait of his family’s struggle to reconcile his Muslim faith and tradition with Khan’s homosexuality.


The idea for Abu struck Khan after his father died in 2010. While arranging photographs and video for a memorial montage, Khan realized how beautiful the images were. He knew that making a documentary would create an avenue for him to confront his identity and relationship with his father.


Khan is an openly gay Pakistani-Canadian filmmaker and director of the Mosaic International South Asian Film Festival. He is also the executive producer of gray matter productions.


After graduating from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema in Montreal, Khan produced several short documentaries, including Threadbare (2008) and Doggoned (2012). Along with writing and producing Abu, the piece is also Khan’s feature documentary directorial debut.


Abu premiered at the LA Film Festival in 2017 and hasn’t stopped screening since. The documentary has shown at festivals around the world, including Poland, Australia, Turkey, Mexico, and many cities across North America.


At the Seattle Queer Film Festival, Abu won the 2017 jury award for best documentary feature. The piece has been met with critical acclaim and praise across the board.


The blend of video styles and the deeply raw, personal nature of the subject material of Abu appeal to me. I anticipate a powerful, emotional story that reveals Khan’s struggle to break out of a patriarchal and heteronormative world.

Abu will screen at Cinemapolis on Thursday, April 12 at 6:45 p.m. with Arshad Khan in attendance.

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