Saram Jaffery of Brampton is hoping the recognition he’s received from numerous International Film Festivals for his multi-award winning film One Last Shot will inspire other young filmmakers, especially those of South Asian decent.
“I always had this idea in mind I wanted to create a platform for up-and-coming artists,” said the Pakistani born actor/filmmaker whose short film has bagged numerous 2020 awards from several film festivals including the Toronto International Nollywood Film Festival (TINFF) and Vancouver International South Asian Film Festival to the Los Angeles Film Awards for Best Acting and Best Narrative.
“I did not know it would take off that quickly, but I’m glad it did.”
He already has another feature film and web series lined up and though they have been “kind of stopped” by the pandemic and the lockdown right now, they are ready to go and ready to shoot.
“After this film’s success a lot of people are trying to connect with me,” said Jaffery explained. “That includes up-and-coming artists, singing artists. Even if it’s behind the camera, in front of the camera. I was surprised because there’s so much hidden talent, so much untapped talent, untapped markets.
“These guys just aren’t getting a platform. They just don’t know where to start.”
The thing is, Jaffery says, when he meets young artists, honestly from all backgrounds, they end up giving up because of financial reasons or lack of support from the community.
Born in Lahore, Pakistan before moving to Brampton in 2007 where he attended film school, Jaffery pointed to his South Asian background where he said there can be that lack of support from family. Arts, he says, are not considered a “real career.”
While his interest in the arts was peaked growing up in Pakistan by watching his father who acted in theatre and local TV, he was always asked to temper down his expectations when he brought up the idea of following in his father’s steps.
Jaffrey got his first big break in 2018 playing the role of Bholu in the Pakistani romantic comedy Band Na Baraati.
“I wanted to do anything related to the arts and they (his family) said, ‘OK, you can keep that as a hobby, but you got to think of something more secure,” Jaffery explained. “You got to be an engineer, you got to be a doctor, you got to be a lawyer.’
“In a way, they’re discouraged and when somebody tries to step out of that, they have to face a lot of criticism within the family and outside the family. Even when you start doing good, it takes a lot of time to have that acceptability.”
His film One Last Shot has certainly garnered acceptability from numerous international film festivals.
Jaffery is not only happy for himself the film has been recognized and rewarded, but for everyone who helped with the project. From actors to those behind the scenes.
“Most of the people involved did not come from a film background,” said Jaffery, whose film won both the Best Canadian Short Film and Viewer’s Choice Award at the TINFF.
“They were beginners and they poured their heart and soul into it. Nobody expected it would get the recognition from all these film festivals, so it was really unexpected but everyone is happy about it.”
The romantic musical drama, inspired by real life stories and starring Jaffery as Faraz, as the lead character, Aniqa Zulfikar, as Zara the love interest, and Zuhair Jaffery, revolves around a struggling musician making some bad choices that put his relationships with people around him in trouble as he tries to achieve his dreams.
“It’s a love story, but it’s like you love a lot of things,” said Jaffery, who produced the music and background score for his award-winning film. “You love someone and then you love something.”
He has to question himself, Jaffery said of the lead character played by him.
“What matters the most? What’s more important? What do I love the most, so it’s all about love,” he added. “When he gets into a situation, it’s how his mind changes to prioritizing different things over time.”
Jaffery is currently busy working on a new film centred around mental issues and web-based series on immigrant issues. He says he has a very commercial approach to his films, much like he did with One Last Shot, even though he always heard all the film festivals feature very indie, artsy movies.
“My film is very commercial in that sense,” he said. “We were able to create that magic and I don’t know if that’s the right word, but I would like to call it magic the way everything has come together and the way everyone is liking it, all the juries, all the judges.
“Even in Toronto we have won an award in the Toronto International Nollywood Film Festival. Things are going well.”
The topics for his new projects are focused on being at the heart of people’s every day lives, like mental illness.
He points to how there remains a stigma around one admitting they are dealing with mental issues and how hard it is for someone to express the battle they are going through when dealing with issues like depression.
“It’s like, ‘Be a man, be a man. What are you doing? Stop crying and go on with your life,'” Jaffery explains of how that stigma can play out. “A lot of people want to talk about it, but they’re not comfortable talking about it. Then it builds up and builds up.”
Jaffery wants people to connect with his movies, because at the end of the day he says he is doing it for the masses.
“I want to have that connectivity factor,” he said. “My goal is whenever anyone watched it somewhere they relate with it.”
One Last Shot, the highly acclaimed drama which won 13 awards in 2020, is available on Amazon Prime Video in the U.S. and UK markets.