Unlike many youngsters, Usman Mukhtar realised very early on that he will not settle for a life that is less fulfilling than the one he is capable of living; hence he gave up his initial plans of studying law to pursue his passion for film-making. The ride wasn’t easy and the path was strewn with various constraints and obstacles but Mukhtar pushed hard to beat all odds and finally managed to produce a long-indie film. Unfortunately the formal release of this 35-minute film never took place.
The script, which is written by Atif Siddique, Amna Mawaz Khan and Usman Mukhtar, is an uncensored dose of mature, dark drama which revolves around the lives of three people who metby chance. Mukhtar is from the growing breed of young film-makers who produce films independently, hence his 2010 film Black Coffee was not released in a typical fashion; it was simply uploaded directly to YouTube.
Surge of independent
Films like Black Coffee have pushed cultural and social labels in a very different manner compared to the more mainstream Lollywood films. Mukhtar says that many such films are now focusing on terrorism and social issues.
“The internet has played a huge role in spreading awareness about global trends,” says Imran Ahmed, who specialises in producing short films. “As film-makers, I think our most important goals are to change the mindset of people, to break away from monotony and to explore our capabilities.”
Ahmed is of the opinion that the advent of DSLR cameras has opened many doors for amateur film-makers to experiment and put themselves on the map. In his case, his short film, a 10-minute film titled I am a Journey, was shot on a whim while he was travelling through Germany. “Digital cameras have allowed high-end results for independent film-makers,” says Ahmed, who appreciates the benefits technology provides for young film-makers.
Is formal training a must?
Akifa Mian, who is an Assistant Professor of Film & Television at Beaconhouse University (BNU) in Lahore and has directed over 18 films on her own, believes that there is still a long way to go before a formalised trend takes place. “When an industry starts to develop, everyone is pushing to fit in. People will try, on individual levels, to take on work; some will make a production house while others will work freelance. But the reality is; they still need a formal industry,” says Mian. “How many films will an independent film-maker be able to make? Until there are nation-wide releases and international releases, there will be no revenue generation.”
Mian maintains that the lack of a formalised industry has meant that awareness regarding the technical aspects of film-making, direction and viewing is limited. She explains that this cinema grammar is necessary for production for quality work. At BNU, Mian has around 115 students and their degrees will allow the students to specialise and develop greater cinematic sense. In Pakistan, NCA also offers courses in film-making, while thoe who can afford it, prefer to go abroad.
She also maintains that while YouTube and social media have changed the world, the issue at hand remains that film-makers are not making money. “Since there are no copyrights, film-makers are not making money online,” says Mian conclusively.
Despite the small monetary returns, young Pakistanis remain passionate about making films. Not everyone, however, can reach the heights of Oscar-winner Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy. For the time being, without copyrights and official releases, their success is gauged primarily by how many hits they get online.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 18th, 2012.
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