As Surrey continues to deal with gang crime and related gunfire, one local filmmaker has created a movie that offers an empathetic view of one young man who struggles in a life of violence.
Inderveer Sodhi doesn’t glorify gangster life in Monster, his directorial debut, and it’s not an action flick.
Instead, he tells the story of how a boy becomes a man, and how his relationships change with his mother, friends and others.
The set-in-Surrey Monster stars Sodhi as Harman, who is shown at age 10, 18 and 20.
Harman’s relationship with his mom is driven by Sodhi’s own story, but all other characters in the fictional drama are a composite of people he knew growing up and those he saw on the news.
Sodhi also wrote the script and created the music for Monster, which debuted at Guildford’s Landmark Cinemas with two screenings in October.
The film was also shown at the Vancouver International South Asian Film Festival, held at Surrey City Hall’s Centre Stage theatre from Nov. 14 to 17.
Sodhi, who lives in the Fleetwood area, is elated by the positive response to his feature film.
“The premiere at the Landmark theatre, it went insanely well, and both shows sold out in a minute,” he said.
“There were so many challenges and things going against the making of this film, so then to see the reaction it’s had, it’s amazing and very motivating to me, and gives me a lot of confidence to make my next film.”
In the spring of 2018, Sodhi set out to make a movie that captured “the ongoing gang violence scene among Indo-Canadian teenagers here in Surrey,” he told the Now-Leader at the time.
“I believe this is a socially-relevant story and a burning cause that our community should be aware about,” Sodhi continued. “Often throughout the years, many filmmakers have attempted to tell these stories but unfortunately do not do justice to the South Asian culture, representing the city accurately and, worst of all, glamorize the violence.”
A fundraising effort was launched on Indiegogo, and the release of the movie was planned for the fall of 2019.
The total budget was around $4,000, said Sodhi, who is 21.
“The film is made by me and people around my age, about 30 of us,” he noted. “Everybody volunteered time to put this together.”
He leads an ensemble cast of 14 actors in an 81-minute movie that features both English and Punjabi languages, with some subtitles.
A description of the film on imdb.com offers this: “After losing his innocence, his best friend, and the love of his adolescence, this coming-of-age gangster drama follows Harman in an hour of his night within a new life of violence,” and the website also shows 159 behind-the-scenes photos.
Sodhi says many people caught in up in gang life have as close of a relationship with their mothers as he does, and that was part of his inspiration to create Monster.
“I didn’t want to make a documentary,” he told CBC Vancouver in a recent interview, “I wanted to create something where people could see themselves in the characters and reflect and think, ‘You know what, if something had happened just slightly different with me, I could have been that’ or, ‘That could have happened to me.’”
Sodhi said another screening of Monster is planned at the Landmark Cinema in Guildford on Dec. 11 at 7 p.m., and that his film will stream on Amazon Prime by the end of that month.
The trailer for Monster is posted to inderveersodhi.com., along with several other videos about Sodhi, the making of the movie and related music.
“It’s been an insane journey,” an emotional Sodhi told the audience before the Oct. 17 premiere of the film in Guildford.
“I just want to thank God for this moment because it’s really, really unreal to have your film playing in a theatre with this crowd, and to have sold out the shows in under a minute, for both shows – thank you, to the universe, for that.
“You know what’s very interesting is that I didn’t think that it was really possible to get to be here right now, with the situation that I was in, with just being 21, self-funded the project, all the people that were involved with this were involved on a volunteer basis, so that’s a huge deal. This was a community project and (everyone) spent days and nights for six months last summer, rehearsing, and it started off as an idea, and that idea was put onto paper in a week – I wrote the script in a week. My next script will take me seven months, so it’s almost like this project had to be done, it was meant to be for this year, in this time period, with these people.”