South Surrey film maker Mani Amar is preparing to shoot a new documentary.

South Surrey film maker Mani Amar is preparing to shoot a new documentary.

South Surrey filmmaker experiments with online movie making

Web film about addicts by writer-director Mani Amar generates positive response .

After tackling controversy with a documentary about South Asian gangsters and following it up with a fictional film about the same subject, South Surrey filmmaker Mani Amar was ready for a change of pace.

So the former Port Alberni resident shot a documentary about the drug addicts who live on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and posted it online.

The Decrepit was made for less than $5,000, a fraction of the budget Amar had for his award-winning documentary A Warrior’s Religion or his follow-up fictional film Footsteps into gangland.

Going online, Amar says, allowed him to make a movie quickly, without the time-consuming process of lining up funding, crews and performers.

And he was irritated by the way drug addicts in Vancouver’s skid road neighbourhood are often portrayed and wanted to do something that would show the human face of addiction.

Amar describes his first-ever Internet movie as a “complete passion project.”

The 30-year-old shot The Decrepit last summer, but didn’t find the time to finish editing the raw footage until a few months ago.

In the 23-minute micro-budget film – viewable at http://vimeo.com/38814733 – addicts tell their stories to Amar, who acted as his own cinematographer and can be heard off-camera asking the questions.

The interviews take place in the alleys of the run-down area of downtown Vancouver, often described as Canada’s poorest neighbourhood.

“I’m not bad, I’m just crazy,” one subject tells Amar.

“You don’t want to be where am I am now,” another interviewee says.

Amar views his Internet experiment as a success on a number of different levels.

For one thing, it is far easier to find funding for a $5,000 web documentary than a $75,000 independent feature film.

For another, the feedback for The Decrepit has been almost universally positive, unlike the outrage generated in some quarters by his previous productions.

“Probably because no specific community was at the forefront of the subject matter (this time),” Amar says.

When A Warriors’ Religion first came out in 2009, there were even threats on his life and police warned Amar some South Asian gangsters had put a price on his head.

“It has come down, I heard,” Amar says.

“It was $25,000, now it’s $10,000.”

A Warrior’s Religion featured the first on-camera interview ever granted by notorious former gangster Bal Buttar.

Buttar, a self-described hit man, was left blind and unable to move from the neck down in 2001 after he was shot twice in the head.

In the film, Amar confronts Buttar.

“Have you killed people?” he demands.

“Yes,” Buttar whispers.

“And you’re OK with that?”

“No, I’m not OK, now. But I was.”

Among other plaudits, the completed film won Best Documentary honours at the Sikh International Film Festival in New York.

Amar based his follow-up film, a work of fiction, on his research for the documentary.

Footsteps into Gangland also raised hackles among some over its portrayal of sexual abuse within a South Asian family.

But the film has also inspired imitators, with other movie makers setting films in the South Asian underworld of B.C.

There have been at least five in what amounts to a new genre of crime films since Footsteps came out.

Amar is not a fan.

He says the imitators are glossing over the uglier aspects of the gang lifestyle, effectively glamorizing it.

The Decrepit, Amar’s newest work, has succeeded in making a measurable difference to at least one person, the filmmaker says.

One man was so shocked at seeing himself in the footage that he entered a recovery program,

“Is this what I look like?” he said to Amar.

The man has been clean for about a year and has developed an interest in the online media that played a part in his current sobriety.

“That’s my proudest accomplishment, that I helped someone,” Amar says.

Amar is now preparing for his next film project, a documentary about “the beauty of human movement.”

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Bonnie and Ken Fletcher’s annual Christmas lights display, complete with animated, inflated and hand-painted treasures, and more. (File photo)
South Surrey Rudolph & Friends display to light up this weekend

Scaled-back effort, ‘aiming to bring happiness’ despite pandemic

The COVID-19 test centre at Peace Arch Hospital is located on the building’s south side. (Tracy Holmes photo)
South Surrey woman calls for consistency in COVID-19 post-test messaging

‘Could we just get one thing straight?’ asks Deb Antifaev

Tom Jackson and bassist Kirby Barber in a trailer for "The Huron Carole," from video posted to youtube.com.
Tom Jackson’s ‘Huron Carole’ concert in White Rock goes virtual to feed hungry Canadians

Surrey broadcast date of Blue Frog-recorded show is Friday, Dec. 11, to benefit Surrey Food Bank

Fentanyl test strips are designed to work in seconds and give a person a negative or positive sign that fentanyl is present in a substance. It also works with other analogues such as carfentanil. (Photo: ASHLEY WADHWANI)
21 people died of overdoses in Surrey in October

Provincewide, more than five people died a day from overdoses

Surrey City Councillor Linda Annis and her dog Randi (foreground) bring toy donations to Saverio Lattanzio of Surrey Firefighters Association (holding toy) and fellow firefighters. (submitted photo: Pace Group)
Firefighters’ ‘Drive-by toy drive’ for Surrey Christmas Bureau, as SuperChefs cooks up kits

‘It’s been a particularly tough year for so many of our Surrey families’

A man wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of COVID-19 walks in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest day of pandemic with 13 deaths, 738 new COVID-19 cases

Number of people in hospital is nearing 300, while total cases near 30,000

(File photo)
Alberta woman charged after allegedly hitting boy with watermelon at Okanagan campsite

Police say a disagreement among friends at an Adams Lake campsite turned ugly

Court of Appeal for British Columbia in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. woman loses appeal to have second child by using late husband’s sperm

Assisted Human Reproduction Act prohibits the removal of human reproductive material from a donor without consent

B.C. projects targeting the restoration of sockeye salmon stocks in the Fraser and Columbia Watersheds will share in $10.9 million of federal funding to protect species at risk. (Kenny Regan photo)
13 projects protecting B.C. aquatic species at risk receive $11 million in federal funding

Salmon and marine mammals expected to benefit from ecosystem-based approach

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Krista Macinnis displays the homework assignment that her Grade 6 daughter received on Tuesday. (Submitted photo)
B.C. mom angry that students asked to list positive stories about residential schools

Daughter’s Grade 6 class asked to write down 5 positive stories or facts

Barrels pictured outside Oliver winery, Quinta Ferreira, in May. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
B.C. Master of Wine reflects on industry’s teetering economic state

Pandemic, for some wine makers, has been a blessing in disguise. For others, not so much.

Most Read