Eleven Films by Ruba Nadda
January 12, 2001
Saskatchewan Filmpool
1822 Scarth St.
Regina, SK, Canada
Curated by Gerald Saul

While only on the scene for a few years, the legend of Ruba Nadda’s work reached me long before her actual films did. Working without a budget, Nadda carved herself a genre of filmmaking unique in Toronto, not only for her rough black and white aesthetic but also for her outright refusal to conform to the artist mode of production. That is to say, she produced her early films without grants and has distributed them without the aid of organizations such as the CFMDC. As a result, she seemed to have initially alienated herself from the other “independent” filmmakers in Toronto, where her work had been largely ignored. Instead, Nadda impressed film festivals worldwide with her unique vision and her prolific output of energetic 16mm films.

Ruba Nadda’s films take a fly-on-the-wall-perspective, peering briefly into the lives of people who would otherwise be ignored. Although she uses only amateur actors (friends and family), the performances have a sense of realism and lack any self-consciousness. This is surprising given the difficult emotional barriers Nadda asks her performers to shatter with each film. Mothers scream at daughters, lovers deliver parting words and solitary individuals face public embarrassment. Everyone always seems poised on the edge of an emotional cliff, a short step from a terminal plunge. People say regrettable things, sometimes painfully true but just as often tragically false. Nadda cuts out all of the chaff to focus directly on those moments when decisions are made which cannot be undone. By the time either the subjects or the audience have a chance to relax, the film ends.

Nadda often centers her films around relationships, family, and love, and in particular, in the difference between old and new world perspectives of these issues. She seems to suggest that in the new world, in Toronto Canada, we expect to be able to do what we want, love who we want, say and do what we want. However, many people continue to be held by the ”old world” expectations of commitment which supersede happiness. On the dark side of the “liberated” new western life, respect takes a back seat to callous opinions, bigotry, and unwilling anonymity. People not only refuse to change but seem unable to change, no matter how much misery their current situation puts them in. Change is abrupt and painful and cannot be done carefully or easily. Family relationships seem to more destructive than supportive as the ways of the old and new ways begin to collide. .

Ruba Nadda’s films supply us with kernels of insight into her life which, as powerfully personal as the works are, remains vastly mysterious to us. The work left me exhausted but wanting more.


slut, 1999, 5 minutes
A film about the layers of privacy and the labels we create for ourselves and place onto others through our actions in what are traditionally “private” spaces.

interstate love story, 1997, 4 minutes
A film about the anger which follows the moment of crisis.

blue turning grey over you, 1999, 5 minutes
Three stories, each depicting the parting moments between lovers each of whom, for different reasons, are destined not to be lovers much longer.

do nothing, 1997, 4 minutes

In our need to be noticed, to stop being invisible, what do we need to do?

I would suffer cold hands for you, 1999, 5 minutes
During this simple conversation between two girls at bus stop, we see a life about to change. The backdrop of a cold winter day on a Canadian street creates an intriguing metaphor for the alien world that this immigrant girl, or any teenager for that matter, finds herself needing to traverse in her search for independence and adulthood. .

we heat drifts through the afternoon, 1997, 8 minutes
A girl set on rebellion lives one more day of her life behind the back of her mother.
so far gone, 1998, 1 minute
The moment that should never happen but too often does.

Damascus nights 1998, 17 minutes
Set in a long narrow café, a series of men burden the women in their lives about their deep and complex problems..
the wind blows towards me particularly, 1998, 5 minutes
On the steps of what might be an ancient amphitheater, or perhaps the stage that all the world is, racism ends one love affair while culture strikes a second one down before it can begin.

Black September, 1999, 5 minutes
As a mother scolds her daughter, the pain of living as an immigrant, separated by space and time from family comes to a head. Nadda captures the anguish of the first generation guilt and resentment with raw intensity rarely found even in feature films. .

Laila 1999, 6 minutes
This film poses the question, how evocative do you need to be to be noticed on a Toronto street? Belly dancing has transformed from the exotic to the everyday as Nadda demonstrates the unavoidable invisibility that one faces in the urban environment.

my 11 year old sister is on fire
Ruba Nadda

my 11 year old sister
is on fire

she sits at her desk
and dreams up

of lies to tell her friends
then she

lies in bed and wonders
what it is like

to kiss boys, she tries to
shut the talk shows

in the other room out along with
her mother's soft crying

she trys to memorize lines
so she can write

her poetry the next day
she is a little girl

who has overheard a secret about her
sister and who is now too scared to

close her eyes

she calls
me late

saturday and asks me if it is
true, says ruba, i can't

believe you
i'm on fire

Ruba Nadda is also a writer and a poet.
I found this on the internet at

© Gerald Saul 2005