‘Song of Lahore’ debuts at Tribeca Film Festival
NEW YORK – “Songs of Lahore”, a documentary directed by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, Pakistan’s first Oscar winner, and Andy Schocken, an American filmmaker, has made an impressive debut at the Tribeca Film Festival, a major Spring event.
The documentary’s premier was attended by a number of film personalities.
Arianna Hiffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post also attended.
The film follows a group of musicians on their quest to revive Pakistan’s musical traditions.
It shows how Lahore, which was once home to lively music scene, was affected by a cultural crack-down during the dictatorship of Zia-ul-Haq in the 70s left many musicians struggling to find work and living in poverty.
In the early 2000s, the documentary depicts a group of musicians known as the Sachal Studios Orchestra set out to change that.
They created new music that combined traditional Pakistani music with jazz, and eventually performed, in 2014, at Lincoln Center in New York.
“We just wanted to showcase the voices of this music,” said Obaid-Chinoy said after Sunday’s first screening – but her documentary does much more than that, though it does offer a marvelous showcase for the vibrant, heavily rhythmic and often percussion-driven classical music that once flourished in Lahore before it was almost driven out of existence.
The City, described as “one of the great art centers of the subcontinent,” was home to a thriving musical culture that in the 20th century found its expression in film scores recorded in the town that became known as “Lollywood” and was the center of Pakistani film.
The biggest challenge, Obaid-Chinoy, 36, says, was getting the musicians to open up.
“The musicians are very proud,” she tells Goats and Soda.
“When I first began filming them, they hid how tough life was for them, and it took me a long time to pry that open.”
“I grew up with my grandfather’s stories of a very vibrant Pakistan, where on the streets [of Karachi] you would have bands playing,” Obaid-Chinoy said.
“When I was young I would watch [the performances] on television.
But when I was a teenager, all of that was lost, and I never experienced the appreciation that he did.
When it comes to Pakistan, “typically, people only see stories about terrorism and sectarian conflict,” Schocken, the co-director, said.
“So it’s important for us to show that there is a culture there worth preserving, and these are the people fighting for it.