In an era when immigrants are being singled out as dangerous “others” to be disposed of despite the multitude of benefits they offer our nation, it is especially important to be mindful of how the immigrant experience is portrayed in the media. Even well-intentioned depictions of immigrants in film and television can reinforce the idea that their experiences are alien and that their stories aren’t relatable to a wide audience. But a new comedic film, The Tiger Hunter, aims to capture the immigrant narrative through humor and empathy.
The film is set in the 1970’s and is centered on a young man from India named Sami Malik. Desperate to impress his childhood sweetheart and to earn the approval of his father, who is a famous tiger hunter back home in India, Sami immigrates to America to become an engineer. But when his engineering job falls through, Sami must live with a diverse group of roommates and take on a variety of low paying jobs in order to make his American dream come true. In an interview with Hypable earlier this year, the film’s SouthAsian writer and director, Lena Khan, expounded on the challenges she experienced in trying to bring a movie about immigrants to a mass audience.
“They [the movie studios] would say it in different ways, you know; that it was obviously a ‘niche audience movie,’ or whatever it is.” After Khan’s script for The Tiger Hunter was rejected by virtually every major movie studio, she raised most of the movie’s funding through Kickstarter. She explained that her decision to make her film a comedy set during the 1970’s was a conscious choice to make the story more relatable. “What I’ve noticed is that a lot of times when you’re heavy handed with these things, especially with movies, people don’t see those movies. And so you don’t reach your audience, and I didn’t want to be preaching to the choir when I wanted to make these characters and their stories and their journeys relatable to people that may not want to sit through a heavy drama about the travails of an immigrant coming into the country. So I really wanted to make it approachable to more people.” [See Can Movies Create Empathy? Lena Khan on ‘The Tiger Hunter’ and Relatable Diversity, by Nasim Mansuri, Hypable, 13.Feb.2017.]
After a successful run on the festival circuit last year, The Tiger Hunter will be released nationwide on September 22nd with Regal Cinemas in conjunction with Shout! Factory, an entertainment company. To confirm if a theater near you is participating, or to organize a screening in your city, visit https://www.tugg.com/titles/tiger-hunter.
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