A new unnverving short horror film Fresh Meat centred around Black Queer cultural appropriation had its Canadian premiere at the 2022 Inside Out 2SLGBTQ+ Film Festival this past May.
The Black female led horror film directed by Lu Asfaha, follows the story of Nia. At first glance, media company Drop appears to be the bright cheery office environment young writer Nia was expecting, complete with staff birthday cakes and office pools. That is until Jamal, her coworker, goes mysteriously missing and Nia seems to be the only one concerned about his disappearance. Investigating further, she discovers Drop’s terrifying secret to success: they’re eating people.
I had the opportunity to chat with director Lu Asfaha about making sure that the black queer community are seen and heard, and how we can all reflect internally about our role in workplace culture.
Kat: What does it mean to you, to have “Fresh Meat” chosen as an official selection for the 2022 Inside Out 2SLGBTQ+ Film Festival?
Lu: Screening at such a well-respected hometown festival was a dream, and getting to do it in-person, surrounded by Toronto’s queer film community was the cherry on top. It was really wonderful for people who’ve been listening to me talk about this film since 2019 to finally get a chance to see it. And of course nothing beats the live audience reaction for a horror movie.
Kat: What do you hope the audience takes from the film?
Lu: I hope the audience see themselves reflected in the film, in both the victims and the villains, that they can reflect internally on how they navigate workplaces. I hope that they make this film part of their conversations because ultimately that’s what art should do, help us understand ourselves.
Kat: The film centres around the topic of black queer cultural appropriation. Why was it important to you to share Nia’s story?
Lu: The importance of all stories is in the telling of it, of sharing knowledge and wisdom and a better understanding of life and each other. It doesn’t take long talking to other Black queer artists to figure out that we’ve all got pretty similar stories about navigating our respective industries. And at the same time there are countless people who have no idea, who’ve never stopped to think about what it might be like for the other. So I think the importance is just in it being known so that we can all have a better understanding of who we’re sharing space with, and hopefully ourselves.
Kat: What has been your biggest challenge thus far in the film industry?
Lu: This is an industry that is very hesitant to finance things that they haven’t already seen, and seen be successful. That’s a pretty tall ask when you’re trying to tell Black queer stories and your identities have for so long only been presented as stereotypes and one dimensional caricatures meant to add edge to an otherwise white straight production. In my work, I’m always trying to render new ways for Black queer people to exist on screen and for some reason no one really wants to fund that.
Kat: Do you have any role models or mentors that you look to for inspiration?
Lu: I’ve been lucky enough to work with some really talented Canadian filmmakers who’ve helped to shape my storytelling and improve my craft. People like Ngardy Conteh George, Alison Duke, and Dennis Heaton have all had a huge impact on me as an artist and storyteller. More broadly, I think I’ve taken more to the idea of possibility models, rather than role models. Other young Black independent filmmakers like Numa Perrier, Nikyatu Jusu, Tayarisha Poe, and others who have already done it and shown that’s possible to do it.
Kat: What are you looking forward to for the rest of 2022?
Lu: I am honoured to say that both myself and ‘Fresh Meat’s producer Fonna Seidu are residents of the Norman Jewison Film Program this year, so I’ll be spending the rest of 2022 at the Canadian Film Centre developing my first feature film project. You can also look forward to ‘Fresh Meat’ being released on CBC later this year, after we do a few more festivals of course. And maybe there are some other projects coming down the pipeline this year, so it’s best to follow @defarmedia if you want to know more.