A former Port Alberni resident’s new film takes a raw look at taboo subjects in South Asian culture, and if it generates controversy then people are thinking, its creator said.
Footsteps into Gangland by Mani Amar chronicles a day in the lives of South Asian characters whose lives are destroyed by gangs, the foster care system and sexual abuse.
The film opened in Surrey in April.
The movie’s main character is Himit, who moves from a small Vancouver Island town to Vancouver where he re-connects with his now crime-boss cousin who tries to recruit him.
The film’s other character is Mya, who has spent most of her life in foster care.
The opening scene depicts her being raped by her foster father, then partying and using drugs as an escape.
The film isn’t meant to be entertaining, nor does it sensationalize or exploit gang life.
Instead, it scrapes the dark sheen of gritty subjects that need to be exposed.
“I expect people to be disturbed and unnerved by what they see on screen,” Amar said.
“If some scenes make people look away then it’s something they need to see, hear and really think about.”
Some of Amar’s critics say that he is doing a disservice to the South Asian community and casting Sikh religion in a bad light.
Others say he’s stereotyping the South Asian community.
“The way things happen in my film is the way it happened in people’s real lives,” Amar said.
“And Bollywood stereotypes South Asian people—I’m being blunt and honest about what goes on in part of our community.”
Amar underwrote the film’s $75,000 price tag himself using “credit cards, paycheques and savings,” he said.
There’s no guarantee he’ll recoup his financial investment, but the movie may pay off in ways which are even more valuable.
“If this gives a girl the courage to talk about sexual abuse and seek justice,” Amar said.
“Or of it stops a guy from joining a gang then I saved a life and that’s worth going into debt for.”
Amar grew up in Port Alberni but can relate to some of the film’s content because of his experiences while living on the Lower Mainland, he said.
But it chillingly hits home in another way as well.
“I know guys from Port Alberni who got involved in crime after moving here and their lives didn’t turn out so good,” he said.