The London Film Festival – like most film festivals – is like a very large bag of treats.
In amongst the gala premiers attended by royalty, the Oscar contenders and the experimental films, you need to dig around to find the one piece of 70% chocolate that hits the sweet spot.
At this year’s fest, one of the best treats is ‘Abu’, a documentary feature by Pakistani-Canadian filmmaker Arshad Khan.
Abu – the Urdu word for father – tells the strange parallel lives of Khan and his father and their family’s life in Pakistan and later in Canada.
It’s a beautifully crafted – Khan uses kaleidoscopic animations, home videos and clips of classic Bollywood films among other things – and deeply personal journey from the wealthy suburbs of Islamabad through financial destitution in Rawalpindi to the immigrant struggle in snow bedecked Canada.
Along the way, we witness Arshad’s journey as a gay Pakistani Muslim and his father’s equally compelling journey from army officer to successful liberal businessman to struggling migrant who finds solace in an increasingly conservative form of Islam.
‘Abu’ charts these two tracks as they part ways and merge and coalesce over the years. Along the way we also meet Khan’s extended family and explore their roles in this often disturbing, frequently funny and deeply moving story.
The film – a staggering five years in the making – has garnered generous praise at a number of prominent film festivals in north America before its arrival in London.
The biggest praise, arguably, came from none other than writer and director Deepa Mehta who came on board as a producer on ‘Abu’.
The UKAsian met up with Arshad to talk fathers, sons, sexuality and forgiveness.