Abu (Father)

Director: Arshad Khan
2017 | Canada | 95m
GENRE: Coming Out | Discrimination | Documentary | Gay | Immigration/Exile | Muslim/Islam | Parenting/Family | Sexual Abuse | South Asian | Violence
SECTION: Documentary
Expected Guests: Director, Arshad Khan, Producer, Sergeo Kirby & Subject, Asma Mahmood

Arshad Khan grew up in Islamabad, Pakistan, surrounded by a large, loving family. The Khan clan was simultaneously traditional and modern, embracing Western pop culture and new technology like video cameras while strictly adhering to patriarchal norms and expectations. Arshad’s father was an engineer who gave up the security of a military career for the freedom to pursue entrepreneurial ventures. But there was no freedom or place for young Arshad to confide his attraction to other boys, or his litany of confusing, clandestine, and heartbreaking encounters. He learned a bitter lesson: “There’s nothing but shame when you fall in love in Pakistan. Nothing but shame.”

After his father’s business ventures failed, the family immigrated to a nondescript suburb of Toronto in 1991. Arshad was 16, in the midst of his angsty teen years, and he gravitated to queer noncomformists—especially when he started college—for comfort and counsel. But even as he became more comfortable with his sexual identity, Arshad couldn’t broach the subject with his parents. They had traded assimilation for fundamentalism as his father immersed himself in conservative Muslim teachings.

Arshad recounts his poignant journey with generosity rather than rancor, which is all the more remarkable when he talks about being molested as a child. Blending original animation, movie clips, and snippets of melodramatic pop songs with a trove of home movie footage, Arshad has crafted a moving self-portrait of acceptance.


This film contains discussions of trauma and sexual abuse.

Consulate General of Canada, San Francisco / Silicon Valley, Hilton San Francisco Union Square

3rd i South Asian Films / Center for Asian American Media / Trikone

  • Website: Official Website
  • Language: English and Urdu with English subtitles
  • Premiere Status: Bay Area