Writer/director Rohan Fernando explores loss, love, and finding your place in the world with Snow . When Parvati’s (Kalista Zackhariyas) family is killed in the 2004 South Asian tsunami, she must move to Halifax to live with relatives. She struggles to become accustomed to her new life in Canada while dealing with such a tragic and traumatic experience, but she eventually finds friends in unlikely places along the way.
Interestingly, most of the actors in this film are amateurs who were hired based on their own experiences in life, and how well those experiences fit the roles they played. In fact, lead actress Kalista Zackhariyas is one of the few people in the film with previous acting experience. Considering this, all the performances are quite well executed. Director Rohan Fernando lets each actor form his or her own role, instead of forcing ideas and traits onto them. This leads to the creation of some pleasantly genuine characters and works perfectly with the documentary style in which the film is shot. It’s a natural progression for Fernando, who has had previous success in documentaries Cecil’s Journey (a Gemini Award-nominated short), and Blood and Water . It was his work on Blood and Water , a documentary about Fernando’s uncle traveling back to Sri Lanka after losing his wife and daughter to the tsunami, that planted the seeds for Snow .
Some viewers may find it difficult to connect with Parvati’s story. The isolation she feels while having to live in another country may not be something that all of us have experienced. Many of us, however, can certainly understand the feeling of loneliness. While the exact experience may change from person to person, the emotions that loneliness evokes are the same. Parvati’s family in Halifax don’t exactly help her deal with her new Canadian life. Her aunt tries to explain that Parvati now has more life choices available to her than she did before, while her uncle tries to force his lifestyle on Parvati (this includes introducing Parvati to a friend of the family that her uncle thinks would be a perfect husband). It’s this kind of pressure that causes Parvati to make some bad decisions.
Unfortunately, Parvati’s choices aren’t fully justified and seem somewhat non-sensical. Is she simply naive in a new country? Has the tsunami has seriously affected her, or has her uncle simply pushed her too far? This confusion only makes a connection with her character an even greater challenge. It isn’t a stretch to think that someone could make a bad decision in life. The problem is that Parvati’s choices seem unbelievable, no matter what her reasoning may be. This includes a love affair with a hotel guest she meets at work, and her friendship with a homeless woman.
Throughout the film, we see Parvati recall how she tried to save her sister during the tsunami. Perhaps this might be the reason that she connects with such troubled people like the hotel guest or the homeless woman (she was unable to save her sister, but maybe there is something she can do for them). Director Fernando has said that Parvati is “like a newborn when she wakes up in Canada”, and this could also explain each bad choice she makes.
Certainly, our lives are full of moments that don’t necessarily work out the way we envisioned as we learn and slowly become the people we are. I may not be able to agree with the things that Parvati does, or even understand why she does them, but I can see how it’s all a part of her learning and growing processes. Like that newborn, Parvati must find her own way, even if it leads to a few bad outcomes.