Footsteps Into Gangland Mani highlighted in The Surrey Now article

Mani highlighted in The Surrey Now article

Posted on Friday, March 18th, 2011

Surrey filmmaker Mani Amar is trying to create social change through film. His latest production, Footsteps Into Gangland, is a fictional story based on real events around the Lower Mainland that shows how harsh gang life can be for youth.

Hello everyone!

The Surrey Now has continued with the media attention that Footsteps Into Gangland is getting.

This great article was written by Matt Law, a great up & coming writer/photo-journalist.

The article was released online via The Surrey Now website and in hard copy today.

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Real events spur ‘Gangland’ film
Surrey filmmaker Mani Amar doesn’t pull any punches in his work
By Matt Law, Special to The Surrey Now
Published: March 18, 2011 10:29 AM

Mani Amar grew up in Port Alberni on Vancouver Island where a city bylaw made sure that every home had a tree in the front yard.

Amar only remembers one youth murder while living on the Island – unfortunately, he can’t say the same for Surrey.

His move to the mainland when he was 18 years old was a major change – something that helped inspire his passion for filmmaking and his latest production, Footsteps Into Gangland, a hour-and-a-half long movie about gangs in Vancouver.

He wrote the script when he was 23. At the time, he was working on a documentary about South Asian gang life, called A Warrior’s Religion, which won the best documentary award at the 2009 Sikh International Film Festival.

The self-trained filmmaker beat several BBC and CBS backed movies for the honour.

“It was me, my money and my handheld camera against the BBC and their $2-million documentaries. Good times,” Amar said.

Not bad for someone who started their career being forced to film family events because he was the youngest.

He thinks the message in the film won him the award as opposed to the high-tech equipment or training that others had.

Making hard-hitting movies isn’t a full-time job for the 29-year-old. He funds his movies by working as a graphic designer and as certified personal trainer, but creating awareness through film is his passion.

“Do you ever find something that you just feel right doing? When it came to doing social change and art it just felt right,” said Amar.

While his latest film isn’t a documentary, it is a fictional interpretation of real stories: murders, rapes and kidnappings that have happened in the Vancouver area.

“Everything I put in the film, from the dialogue to the events, is all based on true events, everything,” said Amar.

He researched newspaper articles, stories in the community and police files that had been made public – stories about real people whose lives had been changed forever by gangs.

“I took these stories of people that have been affected, I wanted to give them a voice, I wanted to empower them,” Amar said.

The film follows several young Indo-Canadians who find their lives destroyed by gangs and violence and abuse in their families.

He chose to shoot most of it in black and white because his focus was on the message not the colours and entertainment people see in Hollywood productions. Amar’s goal with all of his films is social change and making people aware of issues that matter.

It took him $75,000 and only one year to shoot and edit the film. It also put him into debt.

“One of my beliefs is if you save one life, you save the world. So if I touch that one life and I save them, which I think I have, then I’ve done my part and it’s worth getting in debt for.”

Despite Amar’s good intentions, his films have created controversy in the South Asian community.

Two weeks before the first media screening of Footsteps Into Gangland, he started receiving threatening phone calls. Some felt he was doing a disservice to the community and painting Indo-Canadians in a bad light.

But Amar was motivated to not shy away from the very real problems affecting youth.

“Anything worth doing is going to be difficult,” he said. “Youth get involved in this garbage and lose their lives, and hurt families. I originally tried to look for someone doing something positive and proactive, but it didn’t work out that way.”

Amar hopes his film will eventually be shown in high schools so he can reach more young people with his message.

He is critical of how kids act in the world, but he also sees hope for the future and remains passionate about helping youth.

“There is a shift happening in youth right now where that peace and love movement is starting to come not just from grassroots but it’s starting to come from everywhere,” said Amar.

The film is hard to watch at times and Amar admits it’s pretty intense. He pulls no punches in showing how harsh life can be for kids who get involved with gangs.

Footsteps Into Gangland is being shown March 21 to 23 at the Surrey Arts Centre. Show times are 7 and 9 p.m. Tickets cost $11.

To find out more about Amar and his films, visit www.footstepsintogangland.com.

© Copyright (c) Surrey Now

http://www.thenownewspaper.com/news/Real+events+spur+Gangland+film/4463594/story.html

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Shout out to Matt Law for helping bring awareness to this issue!

Best regards everyone,

mani

photograph of Mani Amar::photographer::Matt Law::2011

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