20 movies screened on day one
KARACHI: It was an event that brought the likes of Indian actor Shabana Azmi, Hollywood actor Roger Ashton-Griffith, Indian director Onir and Neil McCarthy of the Independent Film Trust (London) to Karachi. Azmi, Griffith and McCarthy are also a part of the official festival jury that will be judging the submissions at the festival.
The first Sindh International Film Festival opened its doors to the public on Monday. The festival is taking place at the Nueplex cinemas in Karachi, three screens out of five were dedicated to screening films from the festival. The festival is being held in partnership with the Raindance Film Festival and the Independent Film Trust. Two screens show the Sindh Film Festival’s own selections whereas one screen is dedicated to showing short-listed films from the Raindance Film Festival.
Held on a weekday, the first half of the day (during working hours) attracted a sparse audience. Security was tight and towards the evening the entire area was being cleared out by security for the VVIPs that were to arrive. People already present were approached by bomb disposal squads who politely asked them to get their bags checked (again).
“We’re holding it because it helps our industry,” said festival director Assad Zulfiqar Khan. “It gives our work exposure to international judges. Our people see work from abroad and it gives us a chance to interact with other filmmakers as well. We get the opportunity to learn from their work.”
Asked about the Kara Film Festival that hadn’t been holding events for the past several years, he said: “We approached Hasan Zaidi from the Kara Film Festival initially but he didn’t think it was possible within this timeframe and budget. But we are open to working with him in the future.”
Twenty films were screened on the first day including the likes of “In search of Mehlulla” by Saquib Mausoof based on the story of Mohenjodaro. In the documentary, he speaks of the history, conservation and the importance of the one of the oldest archaeological sites in the world. Conservationists, dancers, poets and activists who hold Mohenjodaro close to their hearts were also featured.
‘Nightlife’ by Harune Massey is another documentary out of Pakistan but this time it focused on the lives of the boy sex workers in Lahore. Beautifully-made, stark and vivid in it’s portrayal, the film brought to the screen the plight faced by child sex workers in Pakistan and their sheer vulnerability in a country with no strong child-protection laws.
Another interesting documentary featured at the festival was ‘A pinch of skin’ by Priya Goswami. It focused on the issue of Female Genital Mutilation in the Dawoodi Bohra community in India. Although it started out as a college project, the filmmaker won the National Film Award in India last year for the feature.
The practise is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons” and is banned in over 100 countries around the world. Because of its sensitive nature, the identities of quite a few women featured in the documentary was obscured with the focus being on their voice and body language to communicate their anger, anguish and overall trauma at having undergone such brutality. The director, Priya Goswani, was also present at the festival.
Although the first day of the festival went off on a rather humble start, it did make several strong statements regarding the kind of films that were aired. Storytelling in the form of feature films and documentaries isn’t anything new, but it remains one of the most effective (also entertaining) ways of communicating ideas, accounts, beliefs and experiences. Whether to make a difference or simply to entertain, films and festivals that provide a platform for filmmakers to tell their stories are important.