CHAT Meera Menon on her debut feature film Farah Goes Bang, which has bagged the Nora Ephron Award
A nd she arrives on the scene with a bang! For her debut feature film Farah Goes Bang , Meera Menon, a U.S.-based filmmaker of Indian origin, has won the inaugural Nora Ephron Award at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, New York; an award instituted in the memory of the writer/director who gave us hits such as Harry Met Sally and Sleepless In Seattle . Excerpts from an e-mail interview with Meera Menon.
What was your inspiration for Farah Goes Bang ?
There were multiple sources of inspiration for the film. The first and foremost was my experience as a young college student during the 2004 election, a time in which many people my age were sensing a need to engage with the world. The youngsters depicted in Farah Goes Bang are energised by that same political moment, one in which America was a country newly at war. Equally important was my friendship with my co-writer, Laura Goode. The film, at its heart, is about the importance of female friendships during the rapid period of personal growth that is your Twenties. I have learned so much through my friends, particularly female, about who I am and the woman I hope to be. This film is a love letter to how formative those relationships are when you are young.
Does it reflect your own identity as a first-generation immigrant in the U.S.?
Yes. It also reflects my experience. Farah and Roopa are first generation immigrants [Roopa is from India]. Their odyssey through the heartland of America is meant to demonstrate the ways in which these girls are often not seen as American, though they are as American as any other. I really wanted the film to integrate their faces and races into a new sense of American identity, one that embraces the hybrid, cross-cultural form that I have experienced in my own sense of citizenship.
How challenging was it to tell a story of an America in turmoil through the story of a young woman who does not fit the bill as typically ‘American’.
It was not challenging to tell the story because this is how my friends and I experience the country as young, modern American women. That being said, what is difficult is getting people to understand that we are not telling an ‘ethnic’ story, but rather, we are telling an American story, with characters that just happen to be female and have immigrant backgrounds.
Was there any particular reason why you chose the Kerry campaign to set the milieu?
We chose the Kerry campaign because it was an election in which we participated. But I also thought it would serve as a really appropriate backdrop to a coming-of-age story, because the end result of that campaign was so disappointing and surprising for us at the time. I think that really nicely it reflects how it feels to be young, really believe in something, and then realise that not everything always turns out the way you want it to. Such disappointments are part of what helps us grow up and realise that the world will not always bend to our will, and that we must find a way to move on in the wake of that.
Growing up, my parents would take me to Kerala once every two years. Now it is more like once every three to four years, whenever I can find time off from work, or in the past few years, being in college [Meera holds an undergraduate degree in English and Art History from Columbia University, and an MFA in directing from University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts]. My memories are always connected to my grandfather, and his home in Kovoor, Kottayam. That is the place where my family has visited and gathered for so many years, and that is where the deepest part of my heart lives because of how far back my roots go there.
The film shows that disappointments are part of what helps us grow up and realise that the world will not always bend to our will, and that we must find a way to move on in the wake of that