A poor widower has planned to give up his newborn son in exchange for money so he can take his daughter to safety across the border. But just minutes before their scheduled departure, he insists on seeing the adoptive mother as he confronts a sudden change of heart.
Toronto filmmaker Meelad Moaphi is a BFA (’10) and MFA (’19) graduate of York University’s Film Production program. His works have screened internationally, including at the International Film Festival Rotterdam and Montreal World Film Festival. Moaphi’s unique international upbringing has informed his culturally diverse body of work, which range in pieces in English, Farsi, and even Spanish and Japanese. Moaphi has served as video editor on a variety of commercial content for multinational clients and teaches workshops on film directing, screenwriting, and editing. “Worth” — Moaphi’s latest short film, shot in Pakistan with Urdu dialogue — which was distilled from his feature screenplay to serve as a proof-of-concept, began its festival run in November 2019 and has already picked up 4 awards.
It’s impossible to imagine the sacrifices made by those who must abandon their homes and loved ones for a better life. Apart from the only world they know, many leave behind their identities. “Worth” explores the impossibility of certain choices made at the moment of departure and the gravity of these dilemmas — what or even who to sacrifice at such crossroads. Amidst all the madness, there is no greater fear than the primal one a parent feels when facing the possibility of being separated from their child.
The screenplay for “Worth” was distilled from a feature screenplay I wrote. Considering that the longer script was intended as a first feature, and that its story was set in a very specific location, I decided to test the story and its characters by producing a proof-of-concept that could simultaneously serve as a standalone short film.
The intention was never to cram a feature into a short, but rather to strategically select a snippet that could convey both the narrative and thematic gist of its source material, as well as effectively convey the protagonist’s conflict. After toying with several possibilities, I ultimately decided to hone in on the inciting incident and base the short on the first 20 pages of the feature screenplay.
If the objective is to create an effective proof-of-concept, it’s not enough to merely test the characters and narrative by producing the film locally in Canada using unconvincing set design. An integral element of the endeavour was precisely to explore the challenges that could arise from the literal production, or realization, of the film. With that in mind, I decided to bite the bullet and, with my shoestring budget, shoot the piece completely on location, in Pakistan, with an entirely local cast and crew. From a screenwriting and directing (but also producing) standpoint, only that could serve as the complete test.
“Worth” is the result of my adventure.