I’m thrilled that MSPIFF is launching its Tribute Program on its 35th anniversary this year. The program recognizes the achievements of an international filmmaker whose work is making waves on a global scale. And they certainly made the perfect choice for its first honoree.
Deepa Mehta is a pioneering female Canadian-Indian director, well known as the award-winning writer-director of the Elements trilogy of films (Fire, Earth and Water), exploring social issues in India. Mehta, who resides in New Delhi and Toronto, will make her first-ever visit to MSPIFF to screen three of her films.
Click here to get your tickets.
Two of her films I’ve seen so far are the Water (which was nominated for Oscar Best Foreign Language in 2007) and Bollywood/Hollywood. Both deal with social issues but the genres and tone of the the film are very different. The first is a serious drama set in North India and the latter is more of a rom-com set in Canada, and so I’m excited to see her exploration of the violent gangster genre mixed in with dark humor.
A ferocious, adrenaline-charged Indo Canadian gang war, and a violent clash of culture and crime. Gang leader Jeet Johar and his young, loyal, and often-brutal crew dress like peacocks, love attention, and openly compete with an old style Indo crime syndicate to take over the Vancouver drug and arms scene. Blood is spilled, hearts are broken, and family bonds shattered as the Beeba Boys (“Good Boys”) do anything “to be seen and to be feared” in a white world.
This is one of my most-anticipated MSPIFF films this year. Just like The Dark Valley that I saw recently which is an Austrian Western set in the Austrian Alps (or schnitzel Western as the lead actor Sam Riley called it), I’ve never seen an Indo-Canadian gangster movie before. I don’t exactly associate Canadian cinema with violent gangsters, so naturally I’m intrigued by the premise of Sikh gangsters from the Punjabi community feuding in Vancouver.
I’ve always loved movies that intentionally challenge stereotypes and I’m on for the ride deep into Indo-Canadian underworld that virtually no crime movie gone before. Beeba Boys certainly injects the tried-and-true gangster genre with a fresh cultural context, and the fact that this genre is entirely new for Mehta adds an extra dose of intrigue for me.
Right off the bat the trailer gives me the vibe of a Tarantino or Guy Ritchie movies. It’s hyper-violent but done with style and humor. The trailer is set to dynamic, up-tempo music to go with its stylized action sequences and the *good* boys are impeccably dressed in tailored, vibrant suits. I LOVE the soundtrack, which you can take a listen at its official site. This is my favorite track that’s used in the trailer:
I had the privilege to get a bit of insights about this film from Deepa Mehta. Check out the Q&A below:
1.What’s the inspiration behind Beeba Boys? It seems like stories that’s ripped from the headlines, though people might not associate Canada with Sikh gangsters.
I’ve heard about sikh gangsters operating in the Vancouver area for the last 15 years. One young man in particular caught my attention. As opposed to what is perceived as the ‘ideal immigrant’ he just didn’t give a damn. In fact as I researched this further I realized that these gangs were not very different than the Mafia, the Triads the Yakuza the Irish gangs. Each wave of immigrants starting with the British, the Irish, the Scots, the Italians etc. brought with them a dissident group. The Sikhs were no different.
2. This is a genre usually associated with male directors, in fact, according to IMDb, Beeba Boys is the first gangster film directed by a woman in the last forty years. Did the idea of breaking the stereotype plays a part in you wanting to make the film?
No the idea of breaking a stereotype did not even occur to me. And if it had been the reason to make the film, it would have been a rather dumb one! It’s all about the story and the idea of brown folk (usually associated with doctors, lawyers, corner store owners, cabbies) navigating a shady terrain in a white mans’ world .
3. There are a lot of action in this film just looking at the trailer alone. What’s the most memorable moments for you making those shootouts & car chases?
I really loved doing the action scenes. New toys in a way. Each one of them was challenging and fun to do.
4. I love the style and fashion of the film, especially those beautiful suits. Did you have a certain style in mind that you want for your film? Are there are certain films/ filmmakers of this genre who inspired you?
The style comes from the philosophy of the gang leader Jeet Johar: ‘If you want to be seen you got to commit to being seen’. As brown folks in a dominant white culture one is usually overlooked or typecast. Jeet Johar demanded to be visible. The brilliant Japanese filmmaker Seijun Suzuki was a huge inspiration to me. See his Tokyo Drifter and be blown away.
5. I read that your mother suggested [Bollywood star] Randeep Hooda for the lead role of Jeet Johar. How did the rest of the casting process come about, esp. Paul Gross who’s definitely playing against type?
I don’t like holding auditions. Usually if I like an actor (seen in a play, movie or recommended by someone ) I spend time with them. Have a cup of coffee and just shoot the breeze. Paul is a dear friend and we have always wanted to work together. And here he is – pretty great I think.
6. Your films usually contain a strong social message in them. If there’s one message you want people to take away from this film, what would it be?
Crime is pretty much universal and doesn’t know any color, class or national boundary .
7. You’ve been making films for over two decades. It seems that gender disparity is still a problem in the film industry, esp. Hollywood. From your perspective and experience as a filmmaker, what has changed in that regard, both positive and negative.
It’s an uphill battle but awareness of this disparity is just reaching the public consciousness. It’s important we don’t stop trekking.
(Thanks to MSPIFF’s Festival Director Eric Wilson for the interview opportunity!)
Beeba Boys’ Featurette:
Thoughts on Deepa Mehta and/or her latest film Beeba Boys? I’d love to hear it!