On Oct. 13, a two-part short film debuted at The Screening Room about a woman’s journey home and the resilience of her migrant ancestors.
Fusl follows Shazlin Rahman’s return to Malaysia from Canada and her attempt to learn about her family’s past.
Made by Queen’s alum Asad Chishti, the short film delves into the complex feelings of loss, survival and identity. He hopes it will be the first chapter in a larger story exploring migrant families.
Chishti debuted the two-part film with the first part, “Her Sarong,” and the second, “A Stationery Table Turns Five.”
The first part of the film followed Rahman’s investigation into the craft of making Batik Sarongs and the women who make them. Often worn by women as skirts, Batik Sarongs are long lengths of fabric.
Rahman’s grandmother made Batik Sarongs as a means of supporting her family and affording her children’s education.
“[Rahman] studies some of the designs of her grandmothers’ old Sarongs, which is a type of fabric, then makes calendars out of them, and she has been interviewing different Batik makers who are primarily women and trying to tell their stories,” Chishti said.
After the film, in a panel discussion with Vishmayaa Jeyamoorthy, ArtSci ’18, and poet Kelsey Rideout, Rahman told the audience her mother’s family grew up in extreme poverty.
Many women, just like her grandmother, were able to make Batiks at their own home, on their own time, for ten cents each, to support their families.
The story that came out of the project is larger than originally planned. While it started with a focus on Rahman’s grandmother’s Batik Sarong making, the film turned into a larger story about the survival of Malaysian women and how they handle the difficulties of supporting a family in poverty.
Rahman told a story in the panel discussion about her aunt’s joyful memories of a childhood spent occasionally digging through dumpsters for food.
“Life was miserable but I saw no misery in it,” Rahman’s aunt told her. That lesson stuck with her long after and she tried to apply it to her own life when she felt miserable.
The idea for the film was conceived when Chishti found out he and Rahman both had plans to travel to Asia in January. He suggested they go together to Malaysia where he’d film her as she interviewed women who make Batik Sarongs.
“I knew I was going to India in January to visit my grandmother and when she mentioned that she was going to Malaysia, I said [I would] come along for a week with my camera and audio recorder and see what we could make out of it,” Chishti said.
The project started as an experiment, with no clear end-goal in sight.
“We were curious about this moment in Shazlin’s life and her going back to Malaysia after seven years and trying to reconnect with her motherland.”
Chishti hopes to continue this multi-media project to give a voice to other children of immigrants who feel a desire to reconnect with their family’s past.
“It does feel like the start of a longer conversation.”
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