It goes without saying that South Asian representation within Western media is not easy to come by. Relatable, heartfelt representation is damn near impossible to find. But sometimes, we watch something that truly touches us and allows us to feel so seen and heard on screen.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that I’ve cried during each viewing of Meet You at the Light, a music video directed by Alexander Farah, for local artist Desire Dawson’s title track. The six-minute video explores the relationship between a young woman and her diabetic father touching deeply upon the many dynamic layers of a South Asian household. Particularly, we see the role that the oldest daughter plays in the family, and how more often than not, she is enlisted with responsibilities that are well beyond her grasp.
Though I’m the youngest of three, I’ve witnessed my older sister take on household responsibilities that naturally should have gone to the oldest sibling—my brother. But frankly, his gender grants him a pass to not have to onboard certain responsibilities.
Of course, I’m in no place to point fingers, as my age privilege has become synonymous with his gender entitlement. Needless to say, I’ve observed many expectations being put on my older sister, to take on more household chores, be financially available, and be held at an overall higher standard.
These observations aren't exclusive to Asian families by any means. But when you're a part of a culture that values collectivism and filial piety (the attitude of devotion and care toward one's parents and elder family members that is the basis of individual moral conduct and social harmony), it's pretty common to hear similar experiences from other Asian daughters.
Meet You at the Light sustains a similar narrative in which the daughter of a South Asian household takes on many responsibilities in aiding her diabetic father. It explores how the intersections of love, responsibility and patience all weave together in parent-daughter dynamics, in a way that is both playful and sincere. One of the biggest factors that makes this story feel so real is the cast being a real-life father-daughter duo. There is tangible magic that gets captured on screen throughout the video, and adds to the authenticity of the story.
5X Press was lucky to have an in-depth conversation with Alex Farah, the director of the Meet You at the Light music video, discussing familial constructs, the inspiration behind the video, the significance of on-screen representation, and the potential for tenderness within storytelling.
“The daughter of the film is based on a very close friend of mine. Her dad was dealing with various health issues and passed away in 2020. I got a front row look into how much she took care of him,” Farah told 5X Press.
“There’s this idea that when parents reach a certain age they become a burden to their kids, but I witnessed my friend love taking care of her dad so much. It was as though it was an extension of her own personality.”
Hearing Alex talk about witnessing his friend truly love the journey of taking care of her dad made me think of this dynamic in a different way. While sacrifices are probably being made in one's personal life to take care of their family/parents, the video showed me how those sacrifices become secondary to the devotion that comes with reciprocating the care that was given to you.
“There was such richness in their relationship that made me think about the eldest daughter in a lot of brown families, and how the caretaker responsibility is inherently on them, even if there's an older brother in the picture.” he added.
Though the emotions explored in the video of grief and loss are universal, there is this “brown element that is essentially cultural seasoning” Alex explained.
“You either get it or you don’t, but if you don’t it's still ultimately a story of a parent and a child. It hits different with immigrant kids, but even with non racialized people, it packs a punch because it's easy to identify with that emotional connection.”
Alex used the video to comment on a dynamic that really stands out to him, as a person and as a filmmaker.
“Parent-child dynamics will be something I wanna explore more in my work. There's this paradox where the less agency the father has as a parent, the closer he and his daughter become to one another. I found that really beautiful. Once we cast this project and went with an emerging actress (Ishaval Gill) and her real non-actor dad, that’s when the project took on a life of its own.”
For 6 weeks leading up to production, Alex and the cast worked on the on-screen and off-screen material by exploring the father-daughter relationship, having therapy-like conversations about their ability to become these characters on-screen.
Alex describes how the boundaries of real life and fiction became blurred throughout this process.
“It was my responsibility to work on pulling parts of their relationship out, which looked like getting them to interview one another, talking about their relationship, listening to music together… It led to both intense and playful moments.”
The work that Alex put into finding the true essence of their relationship makes the video as authentic as it is.
For example, the crematorium and dialysis office were filmed at real locations, rented for the shoot. The house seen throughout the video was also shot at Ishaval and her father’s house.
“Using their house was like unlocking a whole new layer. This was their house, their bathtub, their clothes. It felt almost sacred to be given access to them, their lives and their vulnerability.”
Through securing real locations, or having to work through the dynamics of casting a real-life father-daughter, the challenges of this piece ultimately turned into one of the most genuine and heartfelt pieces of representation I have seen. Not only did it take the ‘eldest daughter’ construct and portray it in an accurate way, but it also made me reconsider my relationship with my family… more specifically, my parents. It reminded me of how tender and special it is to take care of someone who once took care of you. It reminded me that making sacrifices in the name of love are sacrifices that are worth taking. It reminded me that each relationship in our lives is fleeting, and to not take those relationships for granted.
Meet You at the Light won best music video at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, and has picked up many other accolades along the way. Be sure to check it out below:
Subscribe to 5X Press
Join our email list to be the first to receive updates on the latest from 5X Press.