South Asians take story of ethnic identity to big screen

South Asian musician Tom Silva is taking his talent to the big screen, and he needs the support of the community to make it happen.

Silva is making a film that confronts the issues of race and South Asian identity head on. The film is called “Silhouettes” and it tells the story of how the lives of Hindu, Muslim and Christian characters intersect.

From News India Times:

“The characters talk openly about what it’s like being a member of an ethnic minority – not seeing yourself reflected in the media as part of the mainstream, having people treat your culture as irrelevant or marginal and having to adopt a mask in order to transcend the boundaries of race,” Silva said.

His goal is to “start to create new possibilities for South Asians in movies by not making them victims, but victors in an age of globalization and mass migration,” Silva said.

“The whole experience of working on this story is truly fantastic. I love the community and there are so many stories waiting to be told. I want to work with some of the great actors in our community who often don’t get the roles they deserve because of their ethnicity.”

“We tried to put in a lot of culturally specific details in the film that really allow the characters to own and revel in their cultural identities – the characters talk about their favorite music like Junoon or their favorite foods like machli; there are references to specific places in India and Pakistan as well where they grew up or went to school,” Silva said.

“Just the way a French film would reference Paris or Nice with pride, we wanted to do the same thing in ‘Silhouettes’ with India and Pakistan.”

Fawzia Mirza, a Pakistani attorney in Chicago who started the first South Asian Law Students Association at, Chicago-Kent College of Law, plays Nadia. She said she can closely identify with her character – a lawyer, a Muslim-American, a nonconformist and a rebel.

Born to Indian parents in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Silva grew up in Southeast Asia, went to the British School, and has spent most of his adult life in North America.

He is in the Master of Arts Program in the Humanities at the University of Chicago, where he is focusing on the intersection of culture and identity.

“Silhouettes” strives to present the migration of South Asians to America in a way that “reshapes the perception of Indians and Pakistanis as cosmopolitan, highly introspective and articulate people who can function as universal characters and not just as ethnic types,” Silva said.

The film has been picked by Gorilla Tango Network for its inaugural slate, which will allow it to benefit from the group’s crowd-funding platform, marketing engine and distribution arm.

The network has already kicked in $25,000 for the film, which is expected to cost $55,000. Silva is seeking donations to cover the remaining costs.

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