In her impactful short film Alex, actor and filmmaker Aisha Evelyna takes audiences inside a trendy Toronto boutique to explore what performative allyship looks like in 2022, showing how microaggressions and implicit bias escalate everyday situations into a traumatic series of events.

Friends Sydney and Madi stroll in for a casual browse of the store, and what unravels is tense, abhorrent, and absolutely believable. Sadly, the incident shared in the film mirrors what Aisha has witnessed and experienced. “I felt the need to address the problem of racism and discrimination for what it really looks like in 2022–which is more systemic, difficult to identify, and by extension more difficult eradicate,” she says.

While she could have chosen a school or hospital or boardroom, Aisha set Alex in a hip store, with its carefully curated locally-sourced goods and pretty pastel palette, it’s a space that resembles dozens of beloved small businesses that line Roncesvalles, Dundas West, and other Toronto neighbourhoods. It’s also a space where racism is insidious and trickier to describe. “I wanted to relate to those who consider themselves to be liberals,” she shares. “We are all complicit within systems of oppression, and that real change cannot happen until we acknowledge how we are all upholding deeply entrenched hegemonic systems that oppress us all to varying degrees.”

Aisha hopes that audiences reflect on judgements they may have made in the past, and question where those judgements and racist assumptions stem from. She wants people to take the time to really examine nuanced situations, and challenge their perspectives. “My main hope is to ask the viewer to question themselves on where they get their beliefs about the world.”

With great writing and knockout performances, it’s a short film that packs a punch. Alex premiered at the Austin Film Festival last month, and will screen at the Whistler Film Festival in early December. Watch the trailer for Alex