On Sept. 9. the NUTV production company held its fourth annual Student Film Festival, highlighting Calgary’s next generation of young and up-and-coming filmmakers.
This year, 11 films were screened consecutively in front of a full crowd at Globe Cinema by students attending various schools and institutions including the University of Calgary, SAIT, Western Canada High School, and many others.
Maryam Ejaz, a graduate of Mount Royal University with a degree in English, has always considered writing a big part of her life since she was a child, and as a result, it ignited a passion for filmmaking. Once she graduated, Maryam began building relationships with people, eventually leading to opportunities such as mentorships with film companies that specialize in cinematography and writing, thus opening the door to the filming process of Purple Kisses in 2020.
The origins of Purple Kisses began three years ago when Maryam drafted a poem based on the domestic violence and abuse within Pakistani and South Asian culture.
“I believe it has to do with intergenerational trauma and inequality between genders.” Ejaz said.
Ejaz explains that the cycle of abuse is normalized within her culture, and uses her poem to deeply understand why issues such as domestic violence are not spoken about enough.
“The point of this film was to bring to the front the struggle of individuals who are in an abusive relationship and how hard it can be for them,” Ejaz said.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Purple Kisses was not able to be screened in theatres until the night of the film festival, but despite some minor setbacks, when the film was screened in front of a live audience, Ejaz could not help but be overwhelmed with emotion and pride.
“Just the ambience of the room and seeing everyone else react to the film was such an incredible experience, and it really did inspire me to write more,” Ejaz said.
Upon the film’s release, many people of colour from diverse backgrounds, such as South Asians, Caucasians, and Western Canadians, credited Ejaz for creating a film that resonated with them and their personal struggles.
Some called the film ‘eye-opening.’
Angad Singh, a student at the University of Calgary, played the role of Hassan, the main antagonist in the film. As Purple Kisses was Singh’s debut on screen and his first big acting role, he describes his first time on set as a learning experience.
“It was something very foreign to me because it was my first time being in front of a camera, so while being in that zone, I had to learn all things about being behind the scenes and what an actor’s job is throughout filming.”
When trying to embody and portray the character of Hassan, Angad dissected the character piece by piece, telling himself that the character of Hassan was not so much the antagonist in the story but instead the protagonist in the eyes of the audience.
“The biggest challenge was convincing myself that he was in the right as it played with my moral compass. I like to joke around and what not behind the scenes, so it was challenging to switch in and out of character,” Angad said.
Manet Khera, a model, actress and musician in the Indian film industry, played the role of Aliyah, the main protagonist in the film. Throughout her acting career, Manet has always longed to be in a film with a character who has a message to share with society.
When the opportunity presented itself to be in a film such as Purple Kisses, Khera took the time to study the role.
“This is deep and the message that it was sending across, and I just felt like that I could really embody the character of Aliyah and show the world what she has been through, and other women like her,” Khera said.
While reading the script of Purple Kisses, Khera gravitated towards the role of Aliyah as she could relate to the sentiments of what the main character was feeling, as Khera has seen many in both the Pakistani and Indian communities suffering from domestic violence.
“People do not want to talk about domestic violence,” Khera said. “It’s kind of just pushed under the rug because it is so stigmatized.”