Take a look at this article, profiling writer/director Faisal Lutchmedial. Below is a capture of the website which doesn’t exist anymore. Text follows.
By: Luciana Gravotta
Photo: Tristan Brand
Faisal Lutchmedial is one of the eight screenwriters selected to participate in the Writers Guild of Canada’s Bell Media Diverse Screenwriters Program. He just spent a week in Toronto developing a television drama series and will continue to work side by side for three months with an accomplished Canadian screenwriter to complete the script for the series. Just a few days ago his short film, Mr. Crab, was selected for the CBC ́s Short Film Faceoff. Here is Lutchmedial in six scenes.
Scene 1: childhood
If you had asked 11-year-old Faisal Lutchmedial—maker of what present-day Lutchmedial considers silly music videos— if he thought he would grow up to be a filmmaker, he would have laughed at you.
“The way I had grown up, going into arts wasn’t even an option, it wasn’t even something that I could have conceived of,” says Lutchmedial.
His father is from Trinidad and his mother from Bangladesh. They came to Canada, to Chateauguay, to build a better life for their children, so that their children could become doctors and lawyers with status and wealth.
Scene 2: sitting down at tables
The two pivotal moments in Lutchmedial’s life involved him sitting down at tables to tell people what he was going to do, and that it wasn’t going to be what they wanted him to do. There was no yelling or fighting—just Lutchmedial, in his calm, cadent voice, telling the people guiding him that he had decided to take a different path. Simple.
The first table was his parent’s dining room table. After a year at Dawson College and bad grades in pure and applied sciences, he told his parents he was switching to fine arts. They were both quiet. “I think what they assumed was that I would eventually come to my senses, so they just let it go,” he says.
The second table was in Concordia’s visual arts building in front of three professors. They hadn’t let him make a film that year and weren’t teaching him what he wanted to learn. He told them he was leaving. “I don’t think they were sad to see me go,” he says.
It was a good thing no one tried to stop him. If they had, he would not have gone to Vancouver. He would not have gone to India. He would not have found his voice.
Scene 3: a disconnect
Zahra Peal has known Lutchmedial for ten years and has worked with him on several films and music videos as the production designer. Her mother is also Indian and she says that “there’s always a sense of dissociation from your parents especially when your parents haven’t necessarily included you in very much of that cultural upbringing. For example, [Lutchmedial] doesn’t speak his mother’s mother tongue.” Peal says that as a kid, not having your culture in your life doesn’t really matter.
Lutchmedial spent entire summers in New York, Toronto, or London with his cousins from his mom’s side. “But all thosekids were second generation immigrants trying to fit into the culture of their host country, so I never felt a connection to my mother’s country. People from there were like strangers, like visitors from another place.”
Scene 4: Bangladesh
“My whole life changed when I started researching my documentary. It inspired me into thinking about my heritage, something that all my life I had avoided and all my life basically ignored.”
The research led him to a four-month trip to Bangladesh where he collected the footage for My Cultural Divide—a full- length documentary that interweaves his first experience in Bangladesh, his mother’s country, with a look into its sweatshops.
The family he had never met welcomed him into their home and made sure he had someone to protect him in the streets of Dhaka. “They thought I was going to get myself killed,” says Lutchmedial. Their fears were not unfounded. He went to the Chittagong Hill Tracts, ate food the destitute people who lived there offered him even though he knew it could have made him very sick, was followed by the military, and had people accost him—demanding he give up his tapes—during a street protest. “I usually have a good gauge of what level danger I’m in and if it’s worth being anxious or not, but I’m a little stupid and put myself in that situation because I know that what I’m getting are good images,” he says.
Scene 5: behind the scenes
“He’s very pragmatic,” says James Hoffman, the only person that gets to read Lutchmedial’s early drafts. “He will give his emotional reaction to things but he’s also very good at discussing viability… so he’s nuts and bolts helpful.”
Lutchmedial was the producer of Meaner Than You, the United Steel Workers of Montreal music video Hoffman directed. They were on a tight budget, with no money to order food for the crew of 30, so Lutchmedial decided to cater it himself. “It was probably the best catering I’ve had at a film shoot,” says Hoffman. “It was homemade Carribean chicken. It was fantastic.” Lutchmedial says that bad catering makes him sad because “if you can’t afford to pay a crew, at the very least you have to give them good food. People who are well fed will work for you to the ends of the earth.”
Lutchmedial was the director and main character in Useless Things, a short film about a second generation immigrant who finds identity and meaning in the objects that fill the home of his now deceased parents. In the chaos of eighteen- hour days during the shooting of the film, Peal, the production designer, says that Lutchmedial led by example. “On set he’s an amazing listener. He’ll always have time to listen to you, and to keep calm and keep focus.” She also says that he lets people express their creativity. “He gives me a lot of leeway to come up with my own concept or explore in the
direction I want to. He doesn’t have a finished vision in his mind… he invites other fine artists to participate in the film.”
Scene 6: Past and Present
“The problem with film and with people who are trying to go into film is that they don’t know what they want to say. Filmmakers need to find what their voice is in order to create,” says Lutchmedial.
He found his voice in Bangladesh. “The whole experience changed me. I started to realize what my history was and that it was interesting.” Lutchmedial became fascinated with an aspect of himself that he had never thought to explore. He began to see his mother and father differently, as people who had struggled to give their children a better life. He began to want to bridge the divide between himself and his culture. “And it’s not just me,” he says. “It’s so many people who live in Canada, a country of immigrants. I started thinking: why am I not interested about that? Why am I not writing about that if I’m coming from a place that puts me in the perfect position to write about it?”
Since My Cultural Divide, Lutchmedial made Useless Things, Going Through the Motions, and Mr. Crab, using his new voice to repossess and reinterpret his heritage.
“It takes a lot of energy for the choices he made,” says Peal. “He could have worked for a larger company doing editing or director of photography work for a network, but he chose not to. He’s telling the stories that he thinks are important.”