Donkeyhead – Sikh family drama reunites distant siblings to contend with their father’s terminal illness
Donkeyhead tells the story of Mona Ghuman, a failed writer, carves out a life of isolation while caring for her ailing Sikh father. She’s always been the outsider of the family, and when her unhealthy and rebellious life comes crashing down by a serious car accident, she moves back into her traditional South Asian father’s house. What was meant to be a few months of rent-free sobriety turns into seven isolated years caring for her cancer-stricken father. When her father suffers a severe stroke Mona’s three successful siblings, (Rup, Sandy and Mona’s twin brother Parm) return back to the family home with a mission to fix and to help, causing Mona’s insecurities about her own unfulfilled life to deepen.
The siblings soon learn their father had planned to leave all of his assets to his favourite child Parm, who hasn’t come out to any of his family as yet. There’s also her traditional aunts and uncles to contend with, causing family tensions to erupt and pushing Mona to her edge. When their father passes away, Rup, Sandy and Parm make the funeral arrangements and tie up the loose ends of the family estate. In her grief, Mona falls apart and reacts in old destructive ways until she discovers that maybe she isn’t the messy, damaged woman she always thought of herself as. Overall, it’s a well-acted drama with plenty of comedic relief within, and provides proper representation of the Sikh community on screen.
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DIRECTOR’S STATEMENT – Agam Darshi
Donkeyhead is a personal story. I lived with my father during his year-long battle with cancer. I watched in awe as my mother cared tirelessly for him, putting her own life on hold to feed, wash, and soothe him day after day. That experience became a major anchor point while writing my script. We are all getting older, and in today’s world where we have been touched by our own mortality in such a visceral way for the past two years, Donkeyhead feels timely. The caring of our elderly and the analysis of our traumas is at the center of this story.
I have always had a deep desire to make a character driven film about a Punjabi family living in North America. India is a big country and the groups that immigrated out of there are nuanced and very distinct from one another, and I wanted to give voice to that. Punjabi’s ‘do’ things differently than Muslims or Hindus, and it’s rare to see that world on screen. And yet, having grown up all over Canada, I feel as much Canadian as I do South Asian, sometimes more.
It’s important to me as a filmmaker to visually showcase the lives of second generation immigrants who, unlike their parents, have a strong sense of belonging in their country. As diverse storytellers, we now have the luxury to tackle themes of personal identity, rather than just cultural identity. Ultimately, Donkeyhead is an exploration of Mona’s connection to herself and her family. It’s about what it means to be left behind – about forgiving yourself and starting anew. I see Donkeyhead as a coming of age story a few decades late. I love coming of age stories, but I do feel like they are sometimes wasted on the young. There is something fragile and wonderful about watching a woman nearing 40, having to start over. It’s harder to start over when you’re older. But the courage it takes is awe inspiring.
THE MEANING OF DONKEYHEAD
The title Donkeyhead comes from the Punjabi word khota meaning Donkey. Khota is a word used sometimes by Punjabi parents towards their children, when they’ve done something wrong or silly. Punjabi is a hard language, and it produces tough people. Child rearing for many Punjabis is a form of tough love – parents love their children, but they are tough on them and will point out when they’ve done something wrong. Mona is the donkey in this film. She’s made a lot of bad choices, and is forever seen by her father, her family and herself as khota (a donkey).
About the Author
Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.