ABU is a beautiful trip through the life of Pakistani-Muslim filmmaker Arshad Khan.  It’s also an outstanding and promising feature-length debut by the filmmaker.

The title of the autobiographical doc is taken from a name (in Urdu) for Khan’s father, a disenchanted family man who lacked a certain warmth towards Arshad.  Standing by cultural traditions and a personal distain for the arts after emigrating to Canada, Abu was never truly supportive of his son’s interests in expression.  He also wasn’t a fond supporter of his son’s sexual experimentation – a desire that evolved into Arshad’s homosexuality – or outspoken opinions.  However, problems extend beyond personal disagreements.  Instead of learning from life’s curveballs, Arshad’s father allowed these changes to disappoint him.  Arshad, while enduring completely different struggles, was determined to persevere.

This creative documentary is an open book.  A case could be made that Arshad made this movie to connect to his father, and find closure and acceptance.  That inkling becomes more than a suggestion as the film progresses up to its emotional finale.  However, in order for this labour of love to be accessible for all audiences, Arshad has also made a vulnerable effort to expand on his experiences in order to find the inspiration underneath his memories.  The results are not only relatable, but hopeful.

It’s also important to mention that ABU does an incredible job illustrating the power of film and video.  The film often resembles a time travelling tape deck as audiences scrub through the past to see Arshad Khan find forgiveness in his future.


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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie

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