Since the discontinuation of Kara Film Festival several years ago, the trend of film festivals in Pakistan has disappeared as well. Though some festivals continue to do the rounds, nothing worth mentioning comes to mind.
As an entertainment industry that has started producing films, we still don’t have space for short films and documentaries. It makes you wonder whether we are no longer interested in non-commercial cinema. Have we lost the will to support budding talent in cinema?
The recently held Asian Peace Film Festival (APFF) addressed these questions and more as it celebrated the beauty of life by sharing everyday stories, histories and alternate narratives weaved into a community within Asian countries.
The 4-day festival featured 109 short films, animations, documentaries and micromentaries from around 50 Asian countries including Iran, Turkey, Russia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Kyrgystan, Singapore, China, Bangladesh, India, Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan and of course, Pakistan. The 109 films were divided over the course of 4 days with conferences and sessions in the morning and movie screenings in the evening. As the name suggests, APFF screened films with a social message attached to it and it was surprising to see that the issues in Iraq, Afghanistan or even Malaysia are not that much different than what we face in Pakistan.
Where it was heartening to see some great cinematic work, it was disturbing to see that very few people showed up to watch these movies. The screenings were held to a nearly empty hall with just a few rows filled, and that too mostly with the organisers or the participants. An event of this kind should have been packed with people and why it failed to do so is a much bigger conversation.
Amongst the many films screened, here are some movies with great concepts, strong storylines and beautiful performances.
Mother – Iran
Duration – 30 minutes
It is about a mother who fails to save her children from the ISIS attacks in Iraq, her hometown. Finding it hard to live after the loss of her children, she joins the convoy fleeing to Syria. It’s an emotional rollercoaster where she can’t help but blame herself for the tragedy even though there was nothing she could have done for them.
Mary Mother – Afghanistan
Duration: 19-20 minutes
Mary and her daughters live in a remote village in Afghanistan and her only son is serving in the military in Kundz province against the Taliban. Upon hearing about the news of an attack where her son was posted and no news about his whereabouts, she starts her own journey to find him. This movie highlights Afghanistan under Taliban oppression and how double standards not only exist but sometimes work in the strangest of circumstances. After a nail biting 18 minutes, the happy ending provided much needed relief.
Great Names – Pakistan
Duration: 2 minutes
The movie is about how people name their girls after great personalities but will not tolerate them living by those examples. This story is about Khadija (named after Khadija bint Khuwaylid) who was looked down upon by her parents and the society because she married a man younger than her and is a businesswoman who makes independent decisions.
Playing House – Turkey
Duration: 3:30 minutes
An animated movie based on a little girl playing house when she gets visited by a boy next door. She greets him with joy but things get darker when the boy reciprocates her warmth with anger. Playing House highlights the ills of domestic violence from children’s perspective and how it impacts the entire household.
Impulse – Korea
Duration: 6 minutes
Korea has the highest suicide rate amongst OECD countries and Impulse revolves around the same concept. The movie points out how easily we joke about suicide and killing ourselves but in reality suicidal impulses are a grave concern. Through animation, Impulse not only addresses the issue but also informs us to not take suicidal claims lightly and help people in our surroundings.
So Easy – Iran
Duration: 1:40 minutes
Some messages are so strong that portraying them with simplicity does wonders. So Easy very creatively showed a politician drinking a glass of water at the beginning of his speech about disasters and just during that brief time, it shows tragedies happening around the world. Director Majid Amiri Mendi stresses upon taking action that will make the world a better place and not just talking about it.
Lifeline – Malaysia
Duration: 10 minutes
Lifeline is about a girl who works as a crisis hotline operator. Her daily dealings with the depressed bring back painful memories of her past. This is basically about the psychological trauma people go through while connecting with the sufferers of clinical depression or suicidal tendencies.
Run(d) For Freedom – Iraq
Duration: 23 minutes
The story is about a 21-year-old Christian girl Rand who, along with her family, escapes from her hometown, Qaraqosh, to save herself from the Daesh atrocities. After two years, she gets a chance to visit her hometown again with a non-profit organization. Since its a documentary you get to experience the real life experiences and visit the actual places. Upon her visit, she collects old pictures and books that she can find at her old home to take her back to her new life.
Nameless – Pakistan
Duration: 11:15 minutes
Featuring two great actors – Sohai Abro and Saleem Mairaj – the short film is about women who are impregnated as a result of rape or prostitution and how they and their children are shunned by society without putting any blame on the men who perpetuate it all. Nameless conveys a small yet powerful message and the credit goes to the director, Noman Khanzada, as well for the excellent treatment of the movie.
Cube – Iran
Duration: 2:27 minutes
An animated movie about a man toiling hard to push a cube along a road where a lot of people pass by him without paying heed to him. As they all reach the end of the road, they realise it has a trench and they can’t go farther. Its at the time, the man pushing the cube throws it in the empty space and make way for others to walk the path.
It beautifully shows that there are people who work hard to make our lives easier and we, so engrossed in our daily lives, just take them for granted and ignore their existence.
The Box – Turkey
Duration: 6:48 minutes
This animated story is about a happy Syrian kid whose life is instantly changed during war, which not only affects him but also his toys. A box that served as his toy house once changes into a place of refuge in camp and finally used as a boat that sails for a journey of hope.
Nano aur Main – Pakistan
Duration: 22:13 minutes
Featuring veteran actor Qavi along with diverse performer, Saboor Ali, Nano aur Main is a story about Erum (Saboor Ali) who loses her parents at a very young age and comes to live with her grandfather (Qavi). The two share a strong bond until Erum leaves to pursue her studies abroad. They both regularly write letters to each other. With time, Erum’s correspondence with her grandfather decreases until one day she receives a letter from him in distorted handwriting. She understands he is not doing well. Just as he held her hand and took care of her when she was all alone, she comes back to take care of him/grandfather.
Allah Hoo – Pakistan
Duration: 5:22 minutes
It is a music video about finding absolution within. Everyday we go through a lot of issues and suppress them. For lack of outlets, we tend to get traumatised and confused. Allah Hoo is about finding peace within. It’s about falling down and getting up again. It focuses on mental health issues and how important it is to address them instead of ignoring them.
Duration: 3:48 minutes
It is also a music video accentuating the beauty of Pakistan. Directed by Ali Sohail Jaura, Arz-e-Pakistan aims to promote both local and international tourism in the Northern regions of Pakistan. It brings about a positive cultural image of Pakistan that is often neglected by the mainstream media.