Photos Courtesy of Parveen Shah Productions
By: Amanda Guarragi
In light of recent events, the COVID – 19 pandemic has raised some questions about the Entertainment industry and how it will function moving forward. The first big hit the industry took was SXSW being cancelled, while other film festivals like Tribeca and Cannes have been postponed. SXSW is known to select a diverse slate of films, as they provide an opportunity for global professionals at entry level to participate, network, and advance their careers. The loss of SXSW is a major setback for independent filmmakers, who wanted a distributor to pick up their film in order to have a larger platform to showcase these diverse stories.
One film in particular, I’ll Meet You There, written and directed by Iram Parveen Bilal, has been in the works for a decade and it was slated in the Narrative Feature Competition category at SXSW this year. Bilal has waited for her premiere date for a very long time, “So I finally was like yeah I should make it. I wanted to make it. It was just very difficult, people were not really interested to fund a film like this, it was too small, too niche. They just said no one cares to see the story.” The film is a post 9/11 family drama, following the lives of a Muslim-American family, as they explore new truths about their present, past and future.
It’s a film that transcends generations, which shows the contrast between a westernized world and the connectivity to religion. Bilal wanted to show the complexities of the everyday Muslim – American and how generations can learn to co-exist, while having their own individual beliefs and ideals. In the film, Dua (Nikita Tewani) is a dancer like her late mother and her grandfather; Baba (Qavi Khan) who came to visit from Pakistan. He makes her question her passion for dance in the name of religion. It’s two different mindsets, having important conversations about past ideologies and adapting to a new world.
“It’s a constant battle between assimilation and pride of your roots. And one is to say what are your roots? If you’re born here, is that your roots? Our culture has become very confusing, is it the colour of your skin that defines what culture you should celebrate or is it where you are living or is it a combination? – Iram Parveen Bilal
The film also shows the difficulty police officer’s face when being an immigrant in the American police force and they have to investigate their own community. Bilal wanted to incorporate this storyline in her film because of the lasting image in her head of an Orthodox Muslim as a police officer, after 9/11. “People were just like, there were hate crimes on the street, how is this guy, what is his life like? This was a very dilute version of something like that I mean to be honest, if I was better at doing police procedurals I would have made the whole film just about that.” She wanted to make this more than a coming of age story, she wanted to focus on each individual in the family and then bring them together to see how they operate as a unit.
These stories deserve to be seen on a global scale and not having that one platform, like a film festival to showcase it, is damaging to the creator and everyone who worked on the film. Some films, such as this one have taken years to produce and the joy of seeing the film on the big screen has been stripped away, for the time being. The discourse that has come out of this cancellation, is if film festivals should even exist in a location, when the age of streaming makes these films much more accessible.
It’s just unrealistic to assume that when this pandemic subsides, people will not attend festivals or movie theatres. There is so much joy when experiencing a film as a community and going to the cinema is always going to be considered an outing. Movie theatres will never close indefinitely because people want to go out and experience films as a group. Film festivals are special for that very reason because you have hundreds of thousands of people, who love movies, that continuously go support these filmmakers and this industry.
Independent films are the ones that need the help in order to be showcased globally, so to be able to watch these films and promote them for these filmmakers is something we should all be doing. There’s so much joy and excitement when premiering your film at a festival, “Honestly I think the rewarding moment is really to be able to share it with audiences. I cannot wait, to be in the theatre and doing that for this film. That’s kind of what I’m pushing for is to get it out there.” Bilal wants to share this film with audiences because of how special this feature is. All immigrants are trying to find a sense of community, in a place that is systemically set in their ways. The film breaks barriers and it’s definitely one that should be seen by all.