Canada. 2022. 106 min
Mona Ghuman (37) was always the outlier of the family. When her unhealthy and rebellious life comes crashing down by a serious car accident, Mona 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, 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.
Agam has a BFA in visual arts and theatre from the University of Calgary, and a certificate in screenwriting from the Langara Film Arts Program. She has been a professional actress for over sixteen years, working internationally and garnering awards.
She recently wrapped as a lead on Deepa Mehta’s newest film FUNNY BOY based on Shyam Selvadurai’s best selling novel. This year Agam was nominated for best supporting actress in the feature film KINGSWAY, written and directed by acclaimed filmmaker Bruce Sweeney, which premiered at TIFF. In 2018 Agam won her third Leo Award for her role in DIRK GENTLY HOLISTIC DETECTIVE AGENCY (BBC), starring Elijah Wood. Agam has starred in numerous TV series such as PLAYED (CTV), SANCTUARY (SYFY) and DAN FOR MAYOR (CTV). She was also a lead in Emmy-winner Jason Katims’ pilot COUNTY (NBC) and worked alongside actors such as Michael B. Jordan, Carrie Anne Moss, Jason Ritter, Jessica Alba and many others. Agam can be seen recurring on YOU ME HER (DIRECT TV), and the GOOD DOCTOR (ABC), and THE GIFTED (CW).
To date, Agam has written, produced or directed five short films. PREETI AND SWEETY’S CANADIAN CHRISTMAS is an excerpt of a feature film she co-wrote, which Agam co-directed and stars. In 2013, Agam wrote and directed the Leo nominated film FADE OUT, which was a recipient of a BRAVO!FACT grant. In 2008 Agam wrote, produced and starred in BOLLYWOOD BECKONS a short film that went onto screen at numerous festivals nationally and internationally. Agam is currently editing her first documentary short, about her grandfather, aptly titled NANAJI.
As an activist for race equality in media, Agam Darshi co-founded the INTERNATIONAL SOUTH ASIAN FILM FESTIVAL (VISAFF). Currently in its eighth year, the festival focuses on ‘bridging the gap’ between South Asian talent and mainstream audiences, by breaking stereotypes and expanding North American views on South Asian culture.
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.
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.