Hyphen magazine - Asian American arts, culture, and politics

'Farah Goes Bang' Shoots for Real Stories of Girls, Diversity

Filmmaker Meera Menon and her best friend writer Laura Goode are making a revolutionary movie called Farah Goes Bang, about a twenty-something Iranian American woman who hits the road with her friends Roopa and KJ to campaign for John Kerry in 2004. Along the way, Farah (to be played by Nikohl Boosheri) is also on a quest to lose her long-lingering virginity. The revolutionary part is that the true-to-life diversity and sexual candidness of the script, co-written by Menon and Goode, are hard to come by in today’s media landscape. [If you take over-hyped HBO show Girls into account, you can apparently have one or the other only. Though there was an Asian American played for laughs in episode 1.]

Hyphen sat down with Menon to talk about inspiration, creative roots and how you can help Farah Goes Bang become a reality.  

                     Picture of Menon by Jon Brilliant

Tell us about your inspiration for Farah Goes Bang.

We saw that there was a startling lack of diversity in terms of how stories of female sexual becoming were told. Women are basically expected to be sexual, unless they are actively choosing not to be. Very few stories have been told about that awkward space between, that struggle some women face in order to have sex even if they want to have sex. A lot of women, and I count myself amongst them, came a bit “late to the party,” and it wasn't because they didn't want to go, it's because they downloaded a bad set of directions. There is great humor to be found here, but more importantly, a great sense of truth.

One of the more telling questions Laura and I have gotten on this script is this: “If Farah wants to lose her virginity, then why can't she just go out and have sex?” No one ever doubted this premise as it related to a young male protagonist in American Pie, a movie in which even the girl band geek was hyper sexually active. So we wanted to make a film about that nerd girl in all of us, that didn't always find life, love, and sex that easy.

As opposed to many Indian Americans whose parents are doctors and engineers, your father is a Malayali movie producer, and you yourself were in an Indian American soap opera as a teenager. How did these experiences influence your own career path? 

It basically influenced everything. I grew up in a house that was constantly serving as a host to actors, musicians, and filmmakers from South India. MGR was at my parents wedding. I remember singing songs with Sivaji Ganesan in my living room when I was four years old. These were larger than life figures. In many ways, there's never been another option for me than to spend my life in search of people like this—truly great actors and artists. That is my home, and my parents have always been supportive of my dreams because they helped create them. 

It's interesting that Farah Goes Bang features main characters who are of different ethnic backgrounds (Persian, Indian, white). Can you talk a little bit about why you made this choice in writing the script?

It’s quite simple, really: we wanted to see a world of characters that accurately reflected our own world. I guess in doing so, we hope to medicate some of the harm caused by a media culture that largely segregates our varied ethnic experiences. For example, by putting an Indian character (Roopa, played by Kiran Deol) in a film that does not largely concentrate on her “Indian-ness,” we hope to broaden the types of stories that people associate with Indian Americans. On this note, there are fewer things more glorious than the fact that the predominant thing about Kalinda Sharma on The Good Wife is not that she's Indian, but rather, that she's bisexual. If it's not one other, it's another, I guess! 

Do you think that there is no longer a place for specifically ethnic, or Asian American films, why or why not?

There is definitely still a place, I just object to the exclusivity of those narratives. It is frustrating to see incredibly talented Asian American actors get cast in the same types of roles, over and over again. But culturally and ethnically-specific narratives will always have their place, if for no other reason than to support our senses of ourselves and our communities through them, which I believe is the ultimate goal of truly great storytelling. 

This is the final week of your Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds for Farah Goes Bang, how can readers make sure this film makes it?

We need people to spread the word like wildfire, continue to donate and reach out to those who will donate more. We have until May 2 to raise nearly $35,000 of our $75,000 goal. We have so many incredible incentives: downloads of the film, access to our super secret virginity blog CHERRY BOMB, and at higher donation levels, we have mixed martial arts classes, writing classes, and even a chance to have a walk-on role in the film. This week we'll be announcing some great new rewards too, including an iPad 3 loaded up with content from the film, headshots, customized shoes, flasks, belts and more. We are pulling out all the stops.

The Farah Goes Bang team, spearheaded by writer/producer/warrior of the heart Laura Goode, has been working day and night on this Kickstarter campaign. Perhaps the most important thing we have to prove through it is that the power to make great films is actually now in our hands, and that all you need is great people, a great message, and then of course, a great community to support both those things. We can do this grassroots, and we hope upon hope that everyone will join us in doing so.
Donate to the Farah Goes Bang Kickstarter campaign here.

Neelanjana Banerjee is Hyphen’s former managing editor.

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