Yasir Masood and Peter McCain’s Snowfall (2020) is a correspondence of poetic letters in Urdu between mother and son. Written seasons apart, their words dance around their shared emotions on migration and steadfastness, nostalgia and loss, belonging and distance, and horizons of potential futures so close, one might step into them.
Yasir Masood and Peter McCain are both from Texas but met in Brooklyn, New York.
Yasir Masood is a self-taught filmmaker whose work explores migration, masculinity, and the Muslim-American experience. His short film, “The Last Hunt,” based on his grandfather’s migration to America, premiered at Austin Film Festival in 2019. Yasir was formerly the Director of Content at International WOW Company, a feature documentary studio that produces content on social justice and the threat of climate change, and the Campaign Producer at Mark Ruffalo’s organization, We Stand United, where he engineered national voting PSAs for the 2018 Midterm elections.
Peter McCain is a visual artist, director, and curator working in music video production and Broadway and experimental theatre advertising. His work explores cultural consciousness, political anxiety, and environmental catastrophe. Peter is Editor in Chief of BATSHIT TIMES magazine, a platform for experimental artforms and emerging practices like biotechnology, generative art, and real-time multimedia software.
From Yasir Masood: My path has always been to expand and champion national conversations on the Muslim and South Asian experience. I draw from one of the oldest story trope frameworks: the loss of innocence. For some, innocence is lost with a first kiss or a parents’ divorce. For me, a Muslim child in Texas, it came on 9/11 – a coming of age that made me painfully aware of the perception of my identity, one I still unpack to this day. Cinema is my chance to have conversations with my younger self and to stare-down the day my Muslim identity became external and the many following days filled with familial and political trauma. My mission as an artist is to push conversations about race and religion in America toward universality, providing a future where American kids don’t question if their voice is heard.
In “Snowfall,” Masood travels to Coney Island in the winter, reflecting upon a potential future in which humanity realizes they have collectively experienced the last snowfall. What will it be like, to notice that what we had is gone? The traveler’s message to his mother takes the metaphors of impending climate catastrophe to voice internal feelings he is too wary and afraid to say to her, a giver of life. Masood writes of possibilities foreclosed by a horizon traveling to meet us, haunted by nostalgia for a Pakistani experience that she has lived, yet which he as an immigrant will never know.
Masood’s mother, Tabinda Javed, recites for him an overture for the migrant experience, a call to remember his ancestry, culture, and self in a city and era that leverages enculturation and socialization against his being. Her letter to her son contrasts earlier scenes from the Western city in summertime that collapse New York, Chicago, Austin, and the U.S.-Canadian border into a montage of sights and sounds beautiful enough to glance at, yet too fleeting to appreciate and grasp. Composer Ross Mayfield accents her comforting message with a haunting wind that builds into a cacophonic explosion of sight and sound: winter turning into spring into summer.
Snowfall sequences mother and son’s letters to emphasize the seasonal, wave-breaking ontology of time, nostalgia, and sense of self. The filmmakers took an anthropological approach to their treatise on conversation and reflection. Masood originally sent his mother an extended version of the poem he recites here. By generating a response, she not only writes to a character in a film, but to a son she misses and prays for. Thus, her poem is not entirely a script, but a document.