South Asian Film Festival points to real conflicts in ethnic families

Surrey has a large and fast-growing South Asian population and with the South Asian Film Festival in its third day of showing, do any of the movies in the festival speak to immigrants from South Asia in Surrey?

I had the chance to briefly interview Avantika Hari by email. She’s the writer and director of Land Gold Women, a film about the dichotomy of traditional family lines and the influence of Western culture, portrayed with a father-daughter relationship in Britain. Her film will be airing a couple more times. You can see the schedule and locations here along with a full synopsis.

Metro Vancouver’s South Asian community. The darker the colour, the more people there from the featured ethnic group. The top five neighbourhoods are shown in light blue. These maps were created using data adapted from Statistics Canada Census Tract Boundary Files (Cat. 92-168-X) and Census Tract Profiles (Cat. 92-597-X), 2006 Census. Illustration by Statistics Canada.

Do you think the conflict arising in the film between the father and his daughter’s choices reflects a common conflict in families coming from similar roots, but living within western cultures?

– I think conflict is at the heart of every relationship, but the degree to which it affects the relationship differs from family to family. A drastic change like moving from one’s own country to a completely different one is bound to cause conflict between the generation that moved and the generation that is brought up in the adopted homeland. I don’t think this conflict is specific to South Asians. I think the degree of conflict might be more because of the large differences between the two cultures. But I think all families that move face challenges.

Is it difficult for Indians living in western cultures to preserve their traditional honour?

– Not all Indians living abroad have a definite notion of “honor” apart from the universal notion of protecting their families from harm. It is an individual’s set of beliefs, values and notions of what is acceptable or not that make it difficult to preserve any traditional beliefs in a foreign culture.

What other challenges does your film explore?

– The challenge of identity is central to the film. Our culture tends to put a lot of pressure on the head of the family to be the guardian of honor. And this notion of honor takes on many definitions, based on the individual. The film explores gender equations and the limits we place on ourselves as human beings to face the challenges of life. Because of these limitations, we sometimes bind ourselves into situations and feel like there’s no way out.

Hari brings up an important point. Most cultures that differ from ours can probably relate to the conflict expressed in Hari’s film. It’s a taxing cost of immigrating.

But I wonder, where specific populations are denser like South Asians in Surrey, is western culture as influential in those areas? Or is tradition better preserved?

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