KARACHI: Nida Khan starrer short film, Dia, directed by film-maker Hamza Bangash is all set to premiere in London at the prestigious platform of BAFTA-qualifying London Short Film Festival (LSFF).
The film, based on a true story, revolves around the notion of mental illness which is still considered a taboo in today’s society.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Bangash said, “I’m really thrilled at the UK premiere and am hoping to attend.” He further added, “Dia had it’s world premiere at the Locarno Film Festival, where my feature film project Flame, was selected for the open doors producer’s lab as well. I had the opportunity to attend, and it was incredible!”
Bangash went on to add, “The response we got to Dia from the Swiss audience was phenomenal, especially as for many of them, this was the first Pakistani film they had seen. So far, it has travelled to Locarno (Switzerland), Batumi Art-House (Georgia), Riga IFF (Latvia), and will be having its UK premiere at the Bafta-qualifying LSFF.”
He also talked about Pakistan’s premiere of the film. “We’re planning on having our first-ever screening of the film in Pakistan, at Alliance Francais Karachi on November 24th,” added the film-maker. “I’m excited and nervous for the Pakistan premiere, as the film has controversial elements- it’s quite blunt- almost subversively so.”
“I think the reason it’s doing so well, is because the film – while being about a very, unique Pakistani experience – also speaks to the universal struggle of an individual struggle with mental illness- and how they are ostracised for their illness- rather then supported/ told to seek out professional help,” Bangash further commented.
“In Pakistan, the truth is often miles more extreme than fiction could ever be. It’s impossible to imagine many of the truths that Pakistani’s live with everyday. The story that Dia is based on, is a truth so explosive that it needed to be told through film,” the director asserted.
Dia revolves around the life of a girl, Mariam (played by Khan), a law student preparing for her final year exams. She lives with her overbearing mother and younger brother in a middle class neighbourhood in Karachi.
As her exams and graduation near, Marium’s mother urges her to consider an arranged marriage. The girl, who is already in a secret relationship online, refuses. As the pressure of marriage and finals build to a boiling point, she struggles to retain her sanity.
The film chronicles her descent into madness- and how she attempts to seek help- in a society where mental illness remains taboo.
Reminiscing what propelled Bangash to tell tale of the girl who inspired Marium’s character, he said, “When I first read the case study of the patient who inspired the character of Mariam, I was both furious and scared. Furious, because of what happened to the patient. Her symptoms were ignored by her family, and when they were finally recognized, she was taken to spiritual healers in lieu of doctors. She was smothered by family expectations and pseudo-religious beliefs- until it was too late.”
The director found Marium’s story relatable.
“My personal connection to the film is that it’s based on the experiences of someone very close to me. I haven’t personally experienced depression – my fears are to have to witness a loved one go through an ordeal like that of the protagonist unaided again.”
He considers his latest venture as a way to deal with his fears.
“Dia forced me to confront my fears. I hope to keep making films that challenge audiences, that force them to look when they would rather look away. To make films that speak ugly truths, but find beauty in the ugliness,” he concluded.
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