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Toronto: Deepa Mehta’s ‘Beeba Boys’ Explores Grimy Side of Immigrant Experience

Deepa Mehta is Toronto fest veteran, which is as it should be for a director who has made the city home since 1973. Her latest film, “Beeba Boys,” premieres as a Gala Presentation on Sept. 13. Cinetic’s John Sloss will screen the film for U.S. buyers at Toronto.

The filmmaker, who as a board member held a fundraising gala in 2013, feels it’s natural to have her films premiere at TIFF. “It’s my home town, you have an affinity with your home town, your baseball team, your film festival.”

Beeba Boys” is a Canadian story, too. Set in Vancouver, the story is based on news reports about youthful gangs of Indian descent engaged in a turf war.

“The tragedy of lives wasted, and the breaking of the stereotype of the meek brown immigrant also caught my imagination,” she said. “The more I delved into these gangs and their very particular cultural roots the more intrigued I was.”

She talked to many gang members, cops and reporters. “This particular crime scene has been covered extensively by the newspaper Vancouver Sun,” she said. “Journalist Kim Bolan has been following them for years. Her articles and a couple of documentaries by the National Board of Canada were my primary source.”

She noted that “thematically, ‘Beeba Boys’ shares the concerns of all my other films — gender, identity, immigration. It’s the story, Indian gangsters in the West — in this case Vancouver — that is different.”

And while her other films ran into trouble during the shoot — “Water” had to shut down production and move from India to Sri Lanka where it shot under a different title — Mehta said each location comes with a different set of challenges. “I shot ‘Heaven on Earth’ in Toronto, and that was a tough one. It was in the middle of winter, (and the) minus-40 (degrees temperatures) made me long for balmy Sri Lanka.”

While some compared her movie to a Johnnie To film, Mehta mused, “I’ll take that as a compliment but I am partial to Seijun Suzuki, the Japanese director of quirky gangster films. And of course ‘GoodFellas’ became a silent mantra as well.”

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