[“The Syed Family Xmas Eve Game Night” is the fifth short of my “7 Queer Christmas Shorts for 2021” post. To read the next review, “Christmas Coming Out, click HERE. To read the previous review, “Jangle”, click HERE.]

“The Syed Family Xmas Eve Game Night” is yet another new queer short Christmas film this year. In fact it’s only premiered at a few film festivals so far, so actually watching this new queer short film is a bit tricky! Thankfully, I was able to view it during the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival – along with a Q&A with the director and star, Kausar Mohammed. Kind of a rom-com, and kind of a sister-com gives us a bit of family drama along with a test for both Luz & Noor. Thankfully, we get a happy ending! In fact, it’s the reaction that Mohammad would want from her own family. (Who actually were the basis for many of the characters!) Keep reading to find out my thoughts on this lesbian Christmas short film.

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Synopsis of “The Syed Family Xmas Eve Game Night”

Detailed synopsis… to be written…

All cards are on the table when a queer Pakistani Muslim woman brings her Puerto Rican girlfriend home for the first time on the family’s annual game night.

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The Critique

I have to admit that not being very familiar with either the Syed family’s Muslim & Pakistani cultural and family traditions, nor with Luz’s Puerto Rican own inclusions to the mix, I feel like I missed out on parts of “The Syed Family Xmas Eve Game Night” during my first viewing. Writer & star Kausar Mohammed stated that she really worked hard to bring the Asian culture into the film during a Q&A during the Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival. After listing to her talk about how having Luz make chai was a cultural test, it really helped me understand the film better. The chai test is both a test for Luz (because their father had insisted Noor’s sister’s potential husbands had to be able to make good chai), but it’s also a test for Noor from her sister Soraya to see whether or not she’ll stand up to her own sisters in order to be with Luz. With this extra knowledge and after the fight between all three sisters, it all really brings the theme of sisterhood to the forefront of the film.

During a second viewing, it made all made more sense – and added a new level of enjoyment to the short. Unfortunately, I think many other viewers will not catch these more subtle points which is why I had to deduct half a rating for the Plot. I also was not a fan of the handheld camera phone filmed montage during the actual game play itself. The change in screen ratio alone, focusing on a narrow vertical reel format with huge black bars on each side really was jarring; the same montage could’ve been shot with a full lens and the point would’ve been made just as well. But otherwise, the cinematographic elements are quite good. I especially loved the soundtrack full of songs by South Asian artists that really help hone in on the culture of the Syed Family.

What makes up for the couple flaws is how well “The Syed Family Xmas Eve Game Night” was cast. Kausar Mohammed did an excellent job finding both Meera Rohit Kumbhani and Pia Shah to portray her sisters, Soraya and Kiran respectively. Together, it makes sense they are sisters. And they fight just like sisters would! But it’s the fun little quirks that make the sibling relationship work so well on screen. It’s clear that Noor and her sister Kiran don’t always see eye to eye, especially regarding Noor’s sexuality. (There’s a wonderfully awkward scene during Noor & Luz’s entrance that really makes that obvious!) But both are equally troubled (and perhaps a tad scared?) of their older sister, Soraya. When she makes her grand entrance wearing her fur coat, the other two share a look that is purely comical!

But the best part of this queer short film is when Luz interrupts the sister’s fight to announce “The chai is ready” Cue a Western-shootout style background music as Luz carries the tray to the coffee table – all in slow motion. The chai is poured into each cup, each sister lifts a cup to their lips and slowly take a sip, eyes looking around at each other wondering do they like? Do I even like it? It’s a very tense moment as they all look to Soraya on whether the chai is good or not. “I approve”, she simply states – but of Luz, NOT about the chai which is horrible! I think I burst out laughing at their reaction! Yet it’s the scene that brings them all together as a family, despite their previous (and ongoing) disagreements. And when Noor and Luz share a kiss, it’s the perfect ending.

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With a sense of uniqueness, quirkiness, and a dash of culture, “The Syed Family Xmas Eve Game Night” is a must-watch for the holiday season! While it has only been shown at a few festivals, I hope that it is released to a wider audience quickly. “Having a queer Muslim Brown rom-com world premiere at one of the most important film festivals in the world is revolutionary,” director Fawzia Mirza stated during the short film’s premiere. And I fully concur – we NEED to see even more queer stories that include non-white persons. Just in this short film alone, we have the merging of a queer Pakistani Muslim and a lesbian Puerto Rican. Keep your eyes peeled in order to catch this film. Hopefully by next Christmas, we can all enjoy the craziness that is “The Syed Family Xmas Eve Game Night.”

Queer Relevance of “The Syed Family Xmas Eve Game Night”

As always, when our main characters are lesbians – it’s a queer film! However, as I mentioned a few times already, the unique queer relevance of “The Syed Family Xmas Eve Game Night” is that it features non-white, Muslim Pakistani and Puerto Rican characters. Representation of Muslim & South Asian characters are very much missing in Hollywood – and they are even more absent in the LGBTQ film niche!

As director Fawzia Mirza stated in an interview, “It’s so important for us to be at the centre of the story. Truly, our mission is to have queer, Muslim, POC protagonists” And despite the fact that this is a fun & comical queer short, the representation alone is what makes “The Syed Family Xmas Eve Game Night” extremely queer relevant.