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To The Death: A dark Comedy Where Two South Asian Actresses Must fight To Death Because “There Can Only Be One Brown Person” 

To the Death is a dark comedy short film that is having it’s Australian premiere at the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne 2023 on the 18th of August. As the storyline goes, Two South Asian actresses in LA must fight to the death for a role because it’s physically impossible to have more than one brown person on a show.

Written by Menik Gooneratne and Yasmin Kassim, who met while acting on the set of Australian show Neighbours. Since then, both had moved to LA and gone from strength to strength in their acting careers but recently returned to Australia and are shaking things up.

Menik is a Sri Lankan Australian actress and writer. As an actor, she is best known for her roles in the Peter Jackson sci-fi blockbuster Mortal Engines, Oscar nominated film Lion and her 111-episode series regular run on Neighbours where she was part of the first South Asian family cast in the show’s 30-year history. She can currently be seen on Nickelodeon’s Side Hustle and That Girl Lay Lay as the outrageous social media influencer Sophia Fugazi. 

Yasmin Kassim is an Indian/Malay/Australian actress, writer and comedian born in Perth.  Yasmin is most known for iconic Australian soap opera Neighbours, ABC’s Rosehaven and her supporting role in Jungle opposite Daniel Radcliffe. Most recently Yasmin can be seen in Mindy Kaling’s Sex Lives of College Girls on HBO Max.  Yasmin was the first Australian to be a writer/performer in the CBS Comedy Diversity Showcase. She performs stand up regularly at clubs all around the US and Australia, including Comedy Store and Laugh Factory.

We’re excited to have them on board as members of Australian South Asian Centre and spoke to them about their upcoming premiere, how they came up with the idea and their thoughts on what we need to do to build more solidarity in the Film & TV industry for South Asian Australians.

How did you two meet?

We knew of each other in Australia as we would always either see each other in audition rooms and had the same agent. We really only got to know each other in LA when we found ourselves in the same UCB improv comedy class. It was then that we realised that the other was actually really lovely and funny and talented… and that’s when we decided to collaborate on this short film.

How did the concept of the film come up?

From our conversations of how we had such strong negative opinions of one another when we were in Australia. Because of the lack of opportunities for brown actors, it made us feel like we were in competition with each other. The film deals with a lot of the frustrations actors of color feel when they audition for a role on a show – that there can only ever be one brown person, that diverse actors are seen as interchangeable, that it’s just box ticking to cast us.

Menik and Yasmin’s short film has been part of a number of festivals across US, Australia and Canada including: 

2023 Atlanta Shortsfest (Best Dark Comedy Nomination) *world premiere*

2023 Malibu Film Festival

2023 LA Shorts International Film Festival (Academy Award and BAFTA qualifying) *West Coast premiere*

2023 Indian Film Festival of Melbourne *Australian premiere*

2023 HollyShorts Film Festival (Academy Award qualifying) – will be screening at the famous TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

2023 San Jose International Short Film Festival

2023 Imagine This Women’s Film Festival (NYC)

2023 International South Asian Film Festival Canada *Canadian premiere*

What do you think we need to do to build more solidarity in the film & tv space for South Asian Australians?

We really want to facilitate change in this space. Diverse actors have been made to feel like there is not enough room for all of us, which is a lie. As actors we spend so much time waiting for someone else to make the decision on whether to hire us, so this whole process of writing, starring and producing our own projects is so much more empowering. We’d like to get to a place where we can help anyone who wants to create, find their voice.

We need to build a strong community where we support, celebrate and elevate each other – where one person’s success is all of our success and one person’s troubles are shared by all so that we can stop feeling isolated and alone. 

South Asian Films Written by South Asian Women  | South Asian Film and TV |  South Asian Women in TV & Film | 

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