Review: 'Sitara' arrives on Netflix with grace and style

Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy's latest delivers on what it promises in fifteen minutes

Ather Ahmad March 14, 2020

KARACHI: The most effective way to tackle a social issue at times is by looking at it in the most naive manner. While any grave issue warrants an in-depth look especially if it pertains to social injustices, as far as awareness is concerned, things should be put in a context that is both palatable and hits an emotional nerve.

Take for instance Marjane Satrapi's animated feature Persepolis. The film manages to offer a first-hand experience of the drastic change in Iran's social fabric post the 1979 revolution by focusing on a young girl coming of age rather than dwelling on the facts and figures like a documentary.

Similarly, Pakistan's first Netflix original Sitara- Let girls dream sheds light on the issue of child marriages through the fun-loving and innocent eyes of a young girl.

Written and directed by oscar-winning film-maker Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, it's a fifteen-minute short that follows a 14-year-old girl named Pari in Lahore who aspires to become a pilot but is ultimately forced into marriage by her father. The audience is taken in through the POV of her younger sister, Mehr, who admires and shares her love for the skies.

Through the course of the film, Mehr's playfulness turns to confusion and later on despair as she sees her older sister's headstrong spirit crumble right before her eyes. Meanwhile, the two by standards, Pari's brother and mother, although resistant of the father's will are too left powerless in face of societal norms, as often is the case in Pakistani families.

A paper plane is a recurrent motif through the film which perhaps signifies the hopes and dreams of women before they are crushed under the burden of arbitrary gender roles. Towards the end, the paper plane itself ends up relaying a change of heart in the father for his younger daughter.

From a technical perspective, the entire film is in perfect harmony. The use of visual language is smart in the sense that it is able to relay all the emotions and underlying themes through minimal imagery with the viewer feeling no need whatsoever to hear any dialogues. The score by Grammy and Emmy Award-Winning composer Laura Karpman compliments it rather well, keeping the viewer engaged throughout.

Animation wise, the film has a very Pixar look and feel to it. But in no way does it compromise it's originality neither does it feel like a low- end render of Pixar film. In fact, the visual look is very much at par if not more.

From a narrative perspective, Sitara for the most part delivers what it promises. However if one were to nitpick, for a story that sets to unearth societal flaws, it is heavily reliant on a singular person to embody everything that is wrong with society while giving a free pass to the silent bystanders.

Also, the redemption in the end could've been showcased in a better way. For someone who just got his 14-year-old married to an adult, not to do the same for his next isn't an act that justifies sympathy from the audience.

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