Filmmaker expresses childhood memories through creative writing

Former Langara student Tarique Qayumi reveals his journey to Canada as an Afghan refugee

Tarique Qayumi (centre back) directing Sesame Street Afghanistan for TOLO television. Photo submitted by Tarique Qayumi
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By Jacob Hoheisel

For Tarique Qayumi, childhood trauma and his experience as a refugee have been the fuel and inspiration for becoming a successful writer and filmmaker.

His storytelling has helped heal his own personal trauma and now he has a platform to tell the stories of others to help them.

“I wanted to go into writing. The only thing I wanted to do in my life was to be a writer. I didn’t know what kind of writer but I enjoyed writing,” Qayumi said.

Russia invaded Afghanistan when Qayumi was a young child in 1979. Constantly running away from danger, the family had to obtain fake passports from smugglers to travel to Demark and Portugal before settling in Vancouver.

Healing through storytelling

Qayumi also had to overcome attention deficit disorder, a learning disability.

His disability and traumatic childhood made it hard for him to fit in.

“I was kind of a loner… kind of lived in my own magical world that I created,” he said.

Qayumi first enrolled in pre-med at UBC but then went to Langara for creative writing where he learned to express his emotion before earning a Master’s degree in film and television at University of California, Los Angeles.

He met Langara instructor Aaron Bushkowsky more than 10 years ago.

“He stood out as the best writer and the most skilled in visually seeing a story,” Bushkowsky said.

Qayumi took a personal story and tried to distance himself from the story by inventing a character to give it a separation from himself to fit into the story, Bushkowsky added.

Rediscovering his roots and identity

In 2011, Qayumi received an opportunity to work for TOLO, a commercial television station in Afghanistan.

His wife Tajana Prka joined him from Germany and turned a business trip into the filming of Black Kite, an Afghan father risking death to fly kites for his daughter’s childhood.

“Everything we experienced from working in Afghanistan had an immediate impact on us,” Prka said. “Both of us come from a different culture, we are always questioning about identity, who am I?”

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