By Kassandra Sharma
Veil is a short film, showcased at the 15th Caribbean Tales Film Festival (CTFF) 2020. During the “Reel Black Canada”. Written and directed by Zahra Golafshani, Veil tells a relatable story of the struggles of just wanting to ‘fit in’.
Starring Jennalyn Ponraj as Leila, the story starts in a girl’s bathroom during a typical prom night. As girls fix their makeup and hair, giggling and gossiping excitedly, Leila and her friend Valeria (Danielle Larracuente) complain about their overbearing and overprotective.
Leila is dressed in a glamourous yet modest black sequined dress pair with a white silk hijab. Her friend, along with the other girls, have on more ‘party’ styled prom dresses. Once in the bathroom stall, Valeria removes her dress to reveal the less modest outfit she has hidden for Leila underneath, as per their preconceived plan. The new dress however shows a lot more skin than Leila agreed too but decides to put it on and removes her hijab anyways to explore a different version of herself.
Throughout the night, we see Leila experience many situations, really testing her values and makes her consider and question ‘who she truly is and what she truly wants’. It all starts with harmless dancing with her best friend. Leila’s new look being noticed by everyone but catching the eyes of one person in particular, Milo (Christopher Avila).
Milo sneaks his way into Leila’s attention and Valeria leaves after feeling iced out. A slow song comes on and Milo wastes no time in pulling Leila close, touching her and even kissing her, making Leila clearly uncomfortable. After she pulls away, his friends show up with a flask and proceed to try and peer pressure Leila into drinking, arguing that its prom night even after she has already explained that she does not drink.
As their hounding persists, Leila breaks away and begins to look for Valeria who is sitting alone at a table. The two have a heated confrontation to which Valeria states that Leila took off her hijab and stopped caring about anyone else and questions if she even knows who she is. The film ends with Leila catching a glimpse of herself in a mirror and she looks down at her dress solemnly.
Veil may be a short film but opens up a big discussion.
Leila struggles with her identity - while unspecified, we can assume she is at a high school prom -so she is still growing and figuring out who she is and how that differs from whom she thought, she wanted to be. Wearing her hijab and dressing modestly has defined who she is among her peers all along, but after opting for a new persona for the night, we see her coming to terms that if this is the group, she wants to fit in it, she may have to shed a lot more than just her clothing choices.
While it remains unsaid, about Leila being an immigrant and I may not wear a hijab, I found the themes of the film extremely relatable and all too familiar. I immigrated to Canada in my early teen years and wanted nothing more than to ‘fit in’ with all the other girls around me. I wanted to look, talk, dress and act like my peers. As I grew older however, I began to appreciate and embrace my traits that made me different and reflected my heritage and culture as we see Leila realizing at the end of the film.
Growing up is hard, and no one wants to feel an outcast because of things that construct their identity. Veil does a fantastic job of telling that story from a candid and innocent point of view which results in a much-enriched short film. Definitely not short on what it has to say.
*Editor’s Note: Veil featured at the CaribbeanTales Film Festival ’20.