Documentaries set the tone for 3rd Karachi conference
KARACHI: The three-day third annual Karachi conference began with the screening of some insightful long and short films on Karachi at the Arts Council on Friday evening.
Historian Kaleemullah Lashari briefly introduced the first set of documentaries, after which the distinguished architect and town planner Arif Hasan shed light on why the films were important. He said Karachi was a divided city as one part of the city did not know much about another. Films would help citizens familiarise with, and understand, each other’s problems. Planning, he argued, succeeded only if one knew for whom it was being done. He added films provided us with the opportunity to get acquainted with relevant issues.
Writer Rumana Husain introduced the films one by one.
Lyari: Highway of Tears, directed by Fionn Skiotis, was the first documentary. The 30-minute project focused on the Lyari Expressway which resulted in forced evictions of the people living in that locality. Through a series of interviews of area residents, officials, town planners and members of civil society it highlighted the difficulties, most of which remain unresolved, that those whose houses were demolished or were asked to leave their abodes to make way for the expressway had to face.
The Hindu Mosaic of Tharparkar was the second film. Helmed by Hasan Ali Khan and Maheen Zia, it traced the lives of members of the Hindu community living in Tharparkar and their religious practices, including the yatra to Hinglaj. Although the interviews of men and women consumed a major portion of the documentary apprising the viewers of the different ritualistic aspects and beliefs in Hinduism, some of the shots of the yatra, especially in the Hinglaj region, were quite good and had cinematic appeal.
The highlight of the first part of the moot was an old documentary made by BBC Horizon and Discovery Channel titled The Mystery of the Persian Mummy. With Dr Asma Ibrahim at the centre of its story, the film told the tale of a mummified girl initially recognised as the mummy of the Persian princess Rhodogune, daughter of King Xerxes. Through a chilling sequence of events, beginning from the time when the Pakistani police received a tip-off that an ancient mummy had been found and was worth millions of dollars, to the time when researchers and investigators, including Dr Ibrahim, began to doubt its authenticity, the documentary effectively narrated the account of how fake mummies were being made to be sold on the art market. And in the process, the forgers committed as heinous a crime as murder.
When the film ended, Dr Ibrahim came to the podium and told that though the documentary was old, even now when she watched it brought tears to her eyes.
The last film of the first segment of the evening was Tazia Makers of Kharadar: Exploring their Passion and Devotion, directed by Qamar Bana. It was a decent effort.
The screenings were followed by a panel discussion conducted by Nameera Ahmed. Replying to a question journalist Kanak Mani Dixit said well-made nonfiction films tended to be more riveting. Finding similarities in the practices of Hinduism in the Thar region and Nepal, he said religion should be spiritual and entertaining; it should be practised to engage community and to enjoy.
Another panellist Hasan Ali, on his project The Hindu Mosaic of Tharparkar said it was an ethnographic film.
On the issues touched upon in film Highway of Tears, Arif Hasan said there was not a single thing to be liked about the expressway because it was cruel and arrogant, and treated people like dirt.
The second part of the first day comprised short films on Karachi made by students.