Indian-Australian filmmaker Aleisha Winslow, 20, has spent the better part of her life working to join the film and television industry. While she harbours an undying passion for cinema, she also faces the disillusionment that overcomes most South Asian creators; when one discovers that Brown people have never really been the main character.
Her latest project titled Gramps Is Drinking Out Of The Toilet Bowl (GIDOOTTB) is about an Indian-Australian family that comes together to celebrate their grandfather’s 80th birthday.
“Diversity is the future of film and television,” Aleisha told Indian Link. “This kind of representation is rarely seen on screen even though it’s a necessity to further progress the film and television industry.”
GIDOOTTB begins with the youngest family member coming into a room where everyone is celebrating gramps’ cake day, to inform them that she found him drinking out of the toilet bowl.
Only, he is not, he has suddenly died. And with the mortician’s visit delayed until the next day, the family is distressed. Soon, a heated discussion about their grandfather’s last will follows, and before you know it, they’re throwing hands.
“I mainly hope to show audiences that South Asians shouldn’t be type-cast to play certain roles or create certain genres of films,” she said.
“We can play any and all characters and we can do it well, we just aren’t given the opportunity. We aren’t on screen for comedic relief or to be a token person of colour, we are there to entertain and engage audiences like every other big Hollywood name.”
The film is based on a true story that Aleisha’s uncle recounted to her, which she then adapted. It was originally set in the 70s and in a pub, but with time constraints and university restrictions, changes had to be made.
“I’ve always thought that my family and our gatherings are so much fun and when I tell my friends about the chaotic things that happen, they find it hilarious too.
“I genuinely just wanted to create something that reflects how my family is with each other because it can be really joyful to experience,” she said.
Not seeing enough South Asians on Australian screens has deeply motivated the filmmaker.
“I watch plenty of movies and tv shows, and I rarely see a South Asian actress or actor in a leading role.
“Sometimes there are South Asians who appear for maybe one or two lines and then we never see them again. I always find myself thinking, ‘Where did my representation go?’”
The fact that GIDOOTTB depicts death in an Indian-Australian family with an all-Indian cast, featuring an older woman of colour as the lead actress, is probably the most refreshing premise to hit the short film scene in a hot minute.
“I know that people want to see that portrayed on screen as much as I do,” Aleisha said, wanting to capture the Indian-Australian experience.
Aleisha’s mum hails from New Delhi and her father is from Melbourne, but her film career began in Hong Kong.
There, she took a Media Studies class as part of her GCSE, formed a team with friends to create their first horror film, and fell in love with filmmaking during the process. In February of this year, she graduated with an Advanced Diploma in Screen and Television from Swinburne University.
She picks ‘Queen’ directed by Vikas Bahl and ‘Dangal’ directed by Nitesh Tiwari as her top films featuring South Asian characters. Her other favourites include, ‘1917’ by Sam Mendes, ‘Lady Bird’ by Greta Gerwig, and ‘Raise The Red Lantern’ by Yi-Mou Zhang (which she has used as inspiration for almost all her films).
Aleisha has previously directed two short films; ‘UNDONE’ (2020), a split-screen depiction of a daughter’s shocking discovery about her father’s workplace, and ‘The Hair On My Body’ (2021) about body hair on feminine presenting bodies and portrayals of it in the media.
She began filming Gramps Is Drinking Out Of The Toilet Bowl in November last year and wrapped up in three days. The project completed post-production last month and will be submitted to forthcoming film festivals.
Check out the promo video for GIDOOTTB.