Filmmaker explores Canada 150 in new work

Union Gallery

Asad Chishti bikes across the country in “A Moveable Chair”

A shot from Chisti's film.
Credit: 
Screenshot from Facebook.
 

Filmmaker Asad Chishti had already biked across the country once before when he decided to do it again last year. His adventure, however, would prove a little different the second time around.

Over the course of his six-month biking journey from St. Johns to Vancouver Island, Chishti combined the personal footage of his experience and edited it into a film titled A Moveable Chair: 0.33-0.67, subtitled As The Crow Flies.

This Sunday, Chishti was present at the Screening Room for the one-night showing of his film that worked to expose the controversy surrounding celebrations of Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation.

The film is just under an hour and features conversations, photographs and landscape video shots from Chishti’s country-wide bike tour.

In one scene, fields of Canola sweep across the screen alongside bikers doing jumps in muddy terrain, explained by Chishti as being captured on film after he took a wrong turn.

Another shows a small blue tea-cup being held by a woman and delves into the history of the plants, animals and Indigenous peoples currently present in Canada.

The film makes clear Chishti’s critical views of the typical celebratory response to Canada’s 150th as being simplistic and one-sided, ignoring the thousands of years Indigenous peoples inhabited this land before colonizers came.

“I really wanted to explore the marginalized stories of people in Canada,” he said to the crowd.

 

Posted by Asad Chishti on Monday, September 25, 2017

At one point, Chishti shows a bed of flowers and we hear a woman’s voice talking about her native heritage. As the camera moves on to pan across a bleak Canadian landscape, the Indigenous woman explains how her mother was forced into a residential school for 16 years.

Speaking in the language of her home community, the woman later translates her words to Chishti, saying “they have succeeded in destroying my culture, I no longer even speak my language.” She explains the phrase as being one of the only things she knows how to say in the language her mother was born into.

To augment the experience at the Screening Room production, Chishti had a friend of his improvising on banjo, fiddle and harmonica as musical accompaniment to the black screens that separated the different vignettes.  

The film would’ve suffered without the music and Chishti did say multiple times that what was shown was a work in progress.

The film’s shabbiness was partly due to this admittedly slapdash nature of Chishti’s editing and partly an intentional trait to express the unpolished reality of Canada after 150 years of confederation. The focus was on those marginalized by society, with Indigenous peoples given a specific focus because of Canada’s history of institutionalized racism towards them.

Standing on the side, Chishti interacted with the audience throughout the film screening. He made jokes like being ‘far afield’ when he was in the Canola field and constantly bantered back and forth with audience members.

Chishti also served as a fourth-wall breaking, which made the stories of the people in the film feel all the more conversational.

These interactive episodes suggested the filmmaker’s desire to show the existence of an alternative understanding of what it means to be Canadian.

By sharing the experience of his cross-country bike tour in A Moveable Chair, Chishti gives a voice to people like himself who aren’t often represented or celebrated in the traditional narrative of Canada 150 – those who love the country but also long to improve it.

“I don’t like the idea that you have to be either in love with this country or want to improve it. I want to do both and that’s what this movie’s about” he said to the film’s audience.

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.