Award-winning director Lu Asfaha joins us on Close-Up Culture to discuss her short horror film, Fresh Meat.
It follows the story of Nia, who discovers a terrifying secret after her new coworker, Jamal, goes missing. The film spotlights the damaging and pervasive ways Black queer creatives are robbed of the ability to personally or communally reap the benefits of their own cultural productions, from visual art to music to fashion, simply by putting a white CisHet face on that production.
Hi Lu, welcome to Close-Up Culture. Can you tell us about your background and what led you to filmmaking?
I’ve always had a love of storytelling ever since my dad’s bedtime stories. I actually thought I would be a novelist through most of my childhood, and then in my teen years I realized that there were actual human beings making the TV shows and films I loved. For some reason that never really clicked when I was young, despite consuming a nearly unhealthy amount of screen content. I still wanted to be a novelist, I didn’t change my mind that quickly. But then when I was 16 I watched the 1988 film ‘Heathers’ for the first time and it was like a new world opening up to me. I didn’t know you could make films like that. And I’ve wanted to be a filmmaker ever since.
What can you tell us about Fresh Meat, and where did the inspiration for this film come from?
I first started thinking about this film after seeing Julia Ducournau’s ‘Raw.’ This film is not very-like ‘Raw‘, but it got me thinking about the thematic possibilities of cannibalism. And then the 2019 mass media layoffs happened and the connection between capitalism and cannibalism became obvious.
This film explores what it is like to be a Black creator in a predominantly white space, and how anti-Blackness and capitalism intersect. Can you tell us more about this issue and how Fresh Meat engages with it?
The catalyst for the events of the film is the disappearance of a Black queer man, Jamal. Through the consumption of Jamal, his non-Black coworkers are able to absorb his ideas. Ideas rooted in Black queer culture that had previously been rejected by the company when Jamal proposed them are now lauded by that same company. I think this is representative of a pattern in pop culture we’ve seen for decades, particularly in music and fashion, where Black queer creation is only made acceptable when represented with a white straight face.
What is the tone of the film, and what journey does it take audiences on?
The film has been described as unsettling and disturbing, particularly with its use of sound design. I think the chewing sounds really put the audience on edge. The audience will go through the journey of being introduced to Nia, a new employee at Drop. Through her eyes we learn about Drop, meet Jamal, and ultimately discover that something not quite right is happening at Drop. But to find out what happens to Nia, you’ll have to watch the film.
Fresh Meat will have its official broadcast and streaming premiere on CBC and CBC Gem/YouTube this September 1st. What are your hopes for the film?
I hope that audiences are entertained first and foremost. But I also hope that it can be impactful, that people can reflect on their own positions in the social hierarchy and their own complicity in a system that only benefits some and throws the rest of us to the wolves. But mostly I just want people to get scared.
What are your plans and ambitions for the future?
Myself and ‘Fresh Meat’s producer, Fonna Seidu, are both currently at the Canadian Film Centre, where we are developing our first feature film ‘The Fly That Doesn’t Listen Follows The Corpse Into The Grave.’ It’s our own take on the haunted house genre, taking place in a predominantly Black, Toronto housing neighbourhood, and focused on a difficult mother-daughter relationship. So you can expect that from us in the future.