The Senate standing committee on culture said on Thursday that the government’s allocation of Rs50m was insufficient for the revival of the film industry. The committee pointed out that various branches of the government had failed to pay due attention to earlier requests and proposals, such as funding for film-processing labs and digitalising of the medium in line with current global trends.
Certainly it will take more than a one-time monetary injection to revive the country’s moribund film industry. Decades of neglect have taken their toll. Even the few films that have been well received in recent years did not make box-office profits, and the majority display poor technical and aesthetic standards. Unfortunately, besides the scarcity of funds there is also a lack of properly trained screenwriters, directors and technical crew. While globally film-making standards have exceeded expectations and the medium earns millions, the industry in Pakistan remains stagnant.
The government must now give this sector the attention it deserves, through means that can include tax incentives, the promotion of international collaboration, the establishment of training institutions and the creation of employment opportunities.
Representatives of the Higher Education Commission told the standing committee that although seven institutions offered courses in film there were no interested applicants for HEC scholarships in this area. In response to the minister for cultureÂ’s observation that no tax exemptions had been made for film-makers, a representative of the Federal Bureau of Revenue conceded, “Under the FBR Act, we do not acknowledge the film industry as an industry.” Herein lies the problem. Until the government recognises cinema as an industry that is both valuable and essential, any effort to revive film is bound to be sporadic and piecemeal. As a result, film will continue to be seen as a non-viable profession.