Synopsis: Life After is a story about mothers and daughters, immigrants and their children, and love and forgiveness. This short film follows Nisha, a single mother and Indian immigrant, who travels to New York City to clear out her recently deceased daughter Zara’s apartment. Out of her element in her daughter’s environment, Nisha discovers surprising new details about Zara. In the midst of her grief, Nisha must decide whether to embrace or ignore the truth about her daughter’s short life.
The film is produced by Maria Altamirano and stars Vidula Mungekar, Purva Bedi, and Allison Byrnes. Life After will screen as part of Shorts Session 4 at 7:45 p.m. on Sept. 20 at Columbia College in Chicago. Below is an interview with director Ria Tobaccowala, who is pursuing an MFA in filmmaking at NYU. Tobaccowala began her career at Google and is a grant recipient of the New Hollywood Emerging Voices program and member of the Producers Guild of America Student program.
What was the inspiration to create this film?
Ria Tobaccowala (RT): I wanted to make a film that explored my heritage and also examined an important social issue that is often taboo but should be talked about within both South Asian and other immigrant communities.
What are you hoping audiences take away after watching your film?
RT: I hope audiences come away more open to discuss issues touched on the film, which should be celebrated and shared between loved ones. Given the recent decriminalization of the LGBTQ community in India, I feel this film is even more relevant.
How did you get interested in filmmaking and why?
RT: I got interested through my dad. He always had video cameras around the house when I was a child and I gravitated to using them to make my own videos. I then got more into filmmaking in high school and took classes. In one class, I made a film on a Super 8 camera — we physically had to cut and splice the footage to edit the film!
What was your filmmaking process like? How did you meet the cast and crew? Were there any major setbacks/challenges? How did the film come together?
RT: I made this film as part of my coursework at NYU so I had great support from professors and my classmates. Our crew was almost entirely NYU students. I found my lead actor, Vidula Mungekar through Facebook! And the amazing Purva Bedi through a recommendation. The other lead, Allison Byrnes, I found through backstage.com. Major challenges were to do all of this in 5 days in cold, loud New York. On one night, we had to deal with a holiday karaoke party a floor below our set that made recording clean sound a huge challenge.
What would you like to say about Chicago South Asian Film Festival and its team?
RT: This festival is such an important event to bring together the South Asian community. I have been so impressed by the team and their effort to promote and celebrate all of us new filmmakers! Thank you!!!