KARACHI: The trailer for the documentary film Without Shepherds takes its viewers on a journey through Pakistan via its characters to project a completely different image of Pakistan. US director Cary McClelland shares more about his latest venture.
How were the six individuals picked for the film? What was the process behind it?
The search for our subjects was an organic process. We designed the film in collaboration with some very talented Pakistani filmmakers and journalists, and together, we shared back and forth the various types of people and places we wanted to explore. After that, we started traveling – at first just to get exposure to the country, different regions, different kinds of people, different aspects of the culture.
How long did the process of shooting in Pakistan take?
We started filming just before the election in February 2008. The idea was that the country, through the election, faced an opportunity to define itself, its future, and its priorities. We wanted to show how people personally were facing those questions and what they hoped to change in their own lives and communities. Our focus all along was on what was happening away from the headlines.
Do you feel the film may not be as up to date since ground realities shift very quickly in Pakistan?
During the year we filmed, Musharraf resigned, Zardari stepped into the presidency, Bush stepped down and Obama took his place, and these two new leaders faced their first test with the crisis in Swat. A lot has happened since then, but the fundamentals are essentially the same – the same leaders, the same obstacles, the same dynamics, and the same policies. So this film is still deeply relevant and current; in fact, it has never been more necessary.
What are your plans for releasing the film?
We have a lot of early interest from American and international distributors, but we need to finish the film first. Certainly, there are expectations to do a wide release in Pakistan, including grassroots screenings to ensure the film reaches everyone who is interested.
How was the process of filming in Pakistan?
I really had only the warmest response from everyone we encountered directly through the film. Anyone we contacted to participate in the film welcomed us openly, even if they had serious reservations about the project. There was a lot of very natural suspicion people had for an American filmmaker. Even those who weren’t comfortable, first welcomed us into their home, offered us tea or a meal, and heard us out fully before saying no. Any problems we encountered happened as a matter of misunderstanding with people who had no relationship to the film or its participants.
What sort of audience are you hoping to attract with the film?
We are targeting the widest audience possible, and have very ambitious expectations for its distribution. Anyone who likes international cinema and documentaries in particular should find this an engaging and dynamic film.
How far do you think efforts like Without Shepherds can go in countering the stereotypes associated with Pakistan?
I think the arts have a vital role to play in politics. They shape the way we see the world more profoundly. Without Shepherds has a strong agenda, not just towards extremism in the East but in the West as well.
The whole project grew out of our unease with the fear-based image of Pakistan that was building in media outlets at home. Our hope is to inject some real empathy, humanity, and hope into the way Pakistan is seen in the world at large and to open people’s eyes. From that, we believe changes in policy and political action is inevitable.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 27th, 2011.
For more information on the film and how to contribute, please visit http://bit.ly/f7JW1B