Hello folks! In this week’s episode of #blabwithsandy, we have two sisters whose works are making a lot of good noise at all the International Film Festivals. Asis Sethi (director/writer) and Armin Sethi (writer/producer) have come up with their latest short titled ‘A Bloody Mess’. Let’s wait no further and dive into the exciting blab I had with them:
Sandy: Hello, Asis and Armin! Could you let us know about your background?
Armin: Hey, Sandy! We grew up with similar background. Our parents had put us into sports, dance, and music. We both grew up wanting to be a part of fine arts. Both of us wanted to tell stories. Asis is into filmmaking and she has been doing a lot of work in front of the camera for documentaries and news channels. I was more into dancing and also practicing law. I pursued my Master in Law and I am a prosecutor.
Asis: I always wanted to make films while my second passion was playing tennis. I started shooting small videos while growing up and my dad found out my inclination towards films. He bought me a camera and I started making home videos. I never wanted to act but I loved how a scene is crafted, how an actor walks into the shot along with the camera movement, the lighting and hues of red, glue, grey, etc. All these things intrigued me!
Sandy: How did your filmmaking journey get an actual kick start?
Asis: We lived in NY and as a part of our schooling, we had history fares and competitions wherein we either had to put up a play or make a film. I choose to make a documentary in NY and it went on to state level competitions which paved the way for other projects coming our way.
Armin: Yes! We’d reached the finals and it was an exciting phase. I remember being in the 6th grade at that time and I was totally glued to watching several documentaries and feature films.
Asis and I are four years apart from each other and we were born in India. We went back to India in 2005 and later again in 2009 when my sister shot her documentary on the historical gurudwaras, a 16 episode series.
Sandy: Being South Asian Canadian filmmakers, how do you cope up with showcasing the Indian culture in relation to the western style of filmmaking?
Armin: I think we are culturally inclined to our roots. It’s an interesting notion that people who live outside India may not understand their original culture. But, in our case, we do live outside India, but within our Canadian community, we have hundreds of Punjabi’s, Gujarati’s and South Indians living amongst us. We tend to dress up in suits more often and the vast Indian landscape of culture is followed everywhere.
Asis: We made sure we followed our own mind frame of mind and our culture while growing up. Thankfully, we have grown up with other South Asians. I and Armin, we both are married into South Asian families. Whenever we are looking at any project, we not only infuse our own experiences but, we also put forward surveys and questionnaires to a certain age bracket of other women. This helps in getting to understand the pulse and also imbibe the cultural aspects into our films.
For our latest film ‘A Bloody Mess’, we spoke to women ranging between the age of 10 to 35 and noted their experiences upon what they felt when they got their first period. Surprisingly, we still found huge percentage of women who find it uncomfortable talking about menstruation. This is how we take our surveys and try to imbibe the essence in our films.
Sandy: Your film ‘A Bloody Mess’ has been doing great guns at the film festivals. Could you share some anecdotes on it?
Asis: ‘A Bloody Mess’ is about normalizing talks on menstruation. Teenagers still feel the angst whenever the topic of menstruation comes up and this is surprisingly uncomfortable. We never thought about the awards or the big international film festivals. All that we wanted was to create a dialogue on menstruation. Just a single film will not change the world but it will definitely make people think about it. Sooner or later, people will try to change.
Armin: We did a lot of live interviews and went on with live callers to understand the situation in the families and the struggles that women are still facing. I was expecting a certain amount of backlash for this subject but I am very happy that all the women felt we needed something like this to come out in the open.
Sandy: ‘The Colorful Crown’ was your documentary that was made on the 9/11 incident which changed the lives of turban wearers.
Asis: Yes! My father is a turban wearer and we are Sikhs. After the 9/11 hit us, a lot of turban wearers faced racism. The other communities did not actually know who the ‘Sikhs’ were actually. The documentary talks about the after effects of 9/11 in Canada and North America.
Armin: In the documentary, we educate the viewers about the turban, its importance to the community, and how it is made. If you look at the opening credits, it showcases a man tying his turban, and as the process of tying completes, the colorful crown come up. It was shot beautifully!
Sandy: Both of you make movies together, so are there any occasions wherein difference of opinions arises between you two sisters? And, how do you manage to win over them?
Armin: I think Asis and I always went along well with our ideas. Asis is a always on a ton of thoughts and even wakes up at 3 in the morning to jots down her ideas. I wake up at 5 or 6 in the mornings and sometimes do the same too, but she is the creator and I am the organizer. I do not get attached to an idea whereas my sister is more passionate when it comes to ideas. If we have a disagreement, we come to terms and put it aside for a couple of days, rebuild, and freshen up.
Asis: I think Armin nailed it. There might be times when both of us agree or disagree, but we have a collaborative mindset and we often come to terms with the best possible output.
Quick Shot Round:
- Love: Family
- Favorite Genre: Thriller
- If not into direction/writing, you’d been into: Dancing
- Favorite Bollywood film: too many to name! Taare Zameen Par
- Favorite Actor(s): Aamir Khan
- Commercial or Art Cinema: We like a balance of both. Educating and entertaining at the same time. Munnabhai and Andhadhun are perfect examples
- Good and bad about the film industry: Good is the creativity involved and being able to educate people through this medium. The bad thing is that the industry more male dominated
- Canada: It’s all about diversity
Sandy: What’s in the pipeline for you in the coming months?
Asis: We have a few projects that are coming up. One is in its post-production stage while we have a short film on depression which is in its writing stage.
Armin: We also have two feature film projects based on social issues.
Sandy: Any piece of advice you’d like to give to the upcoming women filmmakers?
Asis: It’s always good to find a mentor who will help, who will pull you up and not push you down. Never look for shortcuts. Technology is great currently, so be patient and you will get your time. Even if you have no camera, you can shoot videos using your mobile phones. Create opportunities and make an identity for yourself.
Armin: There are two things. There is no substitute for hardwork and always have a network of support around you.
Editor’s note: It was an absolute pleasure interacting with Asis Sethi and Armin Sethi. Their thoughts are rich and the industry needs people like them for the growth of cinema. Wishing Asis and Armin, a soothing cinematic journey ahead!
Follow Sandy @blabwithsandy
Follow Asis Sethi @asis.sethi
Follow Armin Sethi @arminks5