Five O'Clock Shadow is the story of an Indian-American mother who is the victim of racial abuse. Her worst fear rises to the surface and for the first time ever, she asks the question: Do we really belong here?
Interview with Writer/Director/Producer Sangeeta Agrawal
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
My first film as writer and director, Five O'Clock Shadow comes from a very personal place as an Indian-American mother. The story came to me on the morning after the Kansas shooting of two South Asian men. It shocked the community and made headlines all over the world. As the mother of a young man who has a beard, my first thought went to him and his safety. Never in the thirty years of my life in the U.S. did I feel threatened in this way. I simply had to say something about it. And so the story was born.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
Watching Five O'Clock Shadow gives the audience an intimate view into a very personal moment in the life of an Indian-American mother who has just been a victim of racial abuse. While the moment is small, it is set against a huge backdrop of the current social and political environment in the US. It throws light on human response to racial discrimination and hopefully sparks a discussion about the future of immigration policy in the US.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
Five O'Clock Shadow is based in real incidents in my life. I was the victim of racial abuse in a parking lot, after which I truly began to question the choice of living in the US. This incident was one among countless such incidents faced by many ethnic minorities, which signalled a distinct shift in the environment. Also, the film is the story of a mother's fear for her son in the face of this situation she herself faced. Both themes are universal to all ethnic minorities anywhere in the world where minorities are being persecuted.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development?
The film is only seven minutes long so the script is very concise. Once I had the spine of the story, the writing just flowed. It took me about a month to finalise the dialogues and infuse the issues which I wanted to highlight through this piece.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
The response to this short film has been incredible and way beyond my expectations. It has been screened at several prestigious festivals all over the world. It has been a joy to watch audiences respond to each moment in the film as it plays and then engage in meaningful conversations during Q&As. So many people come up to me and relate personal stories, and how they relate to the film. In a way, it's cathartic.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
I think I can safely say that most people who watch the film understand my point of view and often relate to it themselves. If anything, I am convinced that we need to keep telling these stories and bring attention to the issues, in order to bring change.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
My wish for this film, other than being seen by maximum audiences, is that it becomes an instrument to spark discussion. I would be thrilled if it can be screened at political events, at schools, at community events and help raise awareness about racial abuse and how it harms society overall.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
At this time, I would love to talk to journalists about the film. Also, any festival directors who are looking for meaningful socially aware content.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
I would like the film to be an instrument of change. It always sparks a healthy discussion about race, immigration, family and love. I would like the message to fall upon the right ears so that we can move in the right direction going forward.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
Do we really belong here?
What other projects are the key creatives developing or working on now?
I am currently working on two screenplays. One is a serious dramatic story and the other is a lighter comedy, both quite different from each other. I hope to make at least one of the two in 2019.
Interview: January 2019
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Five O'Clock Shadow
Five O'Clock Shadow, is the story of an Indian-American mother who is the victim of racial abuse. Her worst fear rises to the surface and for the first time ever, she asks the question: Do we really belong here?
Director: Sangeeta Agrawal
Producer: Sangeeta Agrawal
Writer: Sangeeta Agrawal
About the writer, director and producer:
SANGEETA AGRAWAL is a first time writer-director for her project, Five O'Clock Shadow. With more than 30 years of experience on stage, and lead roles in several short films, Sangeeta is the recipient of the Best NRI Actress at the Delhi International Film Festival in 2015. Sangeeta moved to the US in 1985. She has lived in the Washington DC area since then.
Key cast: Sangeeta Agrawal (Pooja), Sridhar Mirajkar (Rohit)
Looking for: journalists, film festival directors
Facebook: Five O’Clock Shadow
Where can I watch it next and in the coming month? As of now, the film slated to screen four times in March 2019: the DisOrient Asian Film Festival in Oregon, Ocean City Film Festival in Maryland, DadaSaheb Phalke Film Festival in India, and theUK Asian Film Festival in London.