A few years ago, actor, director and writer Patrick Sabongui was riding public transit in the Lower Mainland with his family when someone called him a terrorist.
“I’m of Middle Eastern heritage and I guess you can see it on me and someone took exception to that,” Sabongui said.
“For no reason, out of nowhere, (a man) just literally stood up and called me a terrorist. He verbally attacked my family, said that my children were terrorist children and told me to go back to where I’m from,” Sabongui said.
“I’m from Montreal. I don’t think that’s what he meant.”
Sabongui was being interviewed Saturday (Feb. 11) on the Langley location where he was shooting The Prince, a short film based on that disturbing encounter.
“I didn’t experience that level of discrimination in all the years I lived in the States,” Sabongui told the Times.
“It happened to me when I arrived here. Not to say that this city is more or less racist than other cities, but it exists in every facet of society and that’s what we need to take a look at.”
Sabongui said at the time of the incident, his children were too young to be aware of what was happening, but it left a mark on their parents.
“That experience stayed with my wife and I and it’s something that we’re continuously working through, especially now as the world is getting more racially divided.”
Sabongui has a long list of credits that includes hit television shows like 24, The Flash and Homeland, and big-budget movies like The 300 and Godzilla.
Through his company, Life Force Films, he has produced and/or directed several short films including the award-winning shorts Shakey’s Coffee, Chained and Ariel Unraveling.
He was filming in Langley Township at Harry’s Custom Equipment Rentals Ltd.
Located in the shadow of the Golden Ears Bridge off-ramp, the company rents production trailers, mobile dressing rooms, bathrooms and other gear for film and television.
The site was the setting for Sabongui’s newest film, the story of how a young tap dancer and her uncle, an actor, struggle with what it means to be Middle-Eastern Canadian in today’s racially divided world.
Sabongui was standing in the “star” trailer, the nicest and roomiest of the mobile accommodations for actors that was also the setting for a scene involving the actor-uncle having a moment of crisis.
At a time when news reports from the U.S. are showing a rise in unapologetic racism, The Prince is a timely subject, and not just south of the border, Sabongui said.
“We like to think that we (in Canada) don’t have the same historic relationship with racism as our neighbours to the south do, but we can’t kid ourselves in thinking that systemic racism and implicit bias doesn’t exist here.”
Sabongui was one of the finalists in Crazy8s, the annual Vancouver-based filmmaking competition and festival.
The eight-day filmmaking challenge that provides funding and support to emerging filmmakers to help them produce a short film, has been run since 1999 by the Crazy8s Film Society.
The 2017 competition attracted 216 teams, that were winnowed down to six winners, who each got $1,000 and everything they needed to make their short film in eight days.
The completed films will be screened Feb. 25 at The Centre For Performing Arts in Vancouver.
Over the past 16 years, approximately 13,225 people have attended Crazy8s screenings, and the films have appeared in over 280 international film festivals with many being broadcast on national television.