True North

Centred on a Pakistani-Canadian university student, Haya Waseem’s feature offers piercing insights into the mental health struggles that plague countless immigrants and first-generation Canadians who are straddling two cultures and balancing self-expression with familial obligations.

Arooj Azeem plays Sheila, whose devotion to the performing arts leaves her family unimpressed. Meanwhile, Sheila’s mom and dad are played by Azeem’s actual parents, Bushra and Ashir, resulting in an uncommonly authentic on-screen dynamic in which there’s a palpable shared history that lends every interaction additional weight. The tension is ratcheted up when Sheila’s not-quite-boyfriend unceremoniously dumps her. Entering a psychological tailspin, Sheila becomes convinced that she’s pregnant.

In Sheila, Waseem and Azeem create a character who exists in an intriguing liminal state: drifting between childhood and adulthood, and incapable of code switching sufficiently to fit in with either her white university friends or the traditional Pakistani girls she grew up with. Relatable to many, her struggles to overcome feelings of isolation and inadequacy are a potent reminder of just how elusive a sense of belonging can be.

Director Icon Director
Haya Waseem

Arooj Azeem, Bushra Azeem, Dounia Alryani, Owen Daniel Douglas, Ashir Azeem, David Disher
Executive Producer Ben Cowley, Donovan Boden, Isil Gilderdale, Emily Harris, Harland Weiss, Jakob Preischl, Philipp Ramhofer
Producer Yona Strauss
Screenwriter Haya Waseem
Cinematographer Christopher Lew
Editor Brendan Mills
Production Design Dialla Kawar
Music Spencer Creaghan
Contact levelFILM
Canada 2021 90 min. In English and Urdu
Presented by
Media Partners

This film has Closed Captioning when streaming on VIFF Connect.


Please note this film can only be viewed in Canada when streaming on VIFF Connect.

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