Film-making, media opportunities, documentary techniques and advanced equipment all are far-fetched dreams for most media students and fledgling filmmakers in Pakistan. With limited resources and challenging conditions in the country what young talent is producing is still commendable but to further promote and help the talent to pursue their passion in film and documentary-making, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) conducted a film festival.
The festival did not only help filmmakers to promote their talent but also to compete and produce short films on different themes. The festival included three categories and six dynamic themes. The categories included ‘undergraduate’, ‘mobile’ and ‘special’ while most of the themes which won the prizes were philanthropy in Pakistan and colours of Pakistan.
The National Amateur Short Film Festival (NASFF) 2021 was organised with the collaboration of the Ministry of Information and ISPR. The festival’s registration started in 2020 November and the departments conducted several webinars in different universities across the country, where students of media sciences were encouraged to apply. The students were supposed to register themselves and select any particular category, and then select the theme in which they want to apply the film. The registration of the festival closed earlier in 2021 while the applicants were supposed to submit the final film by the end of March. The awards were announced by the end of June 2021.
From the several entries in the festival, 15 applicants were awarded in all three categories at the ceremony held in Islamabad in the presence of many celebrities from the film fraternity, federal ministers and the Prime Minister himself in attendance. Each student was given a fully-funded scholarship of a one-year course at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Movies, which were made not before 2018, were not accepted into the festival.
‘The Disgustful’ – Waleed Akram
Graduating in business, accounts and finance in 2014 from Government College Lahore, Waleed Akram always knew that his passion was film-making and his professional degree was not something he wanted to pursue. Akram who has been passionate about short films started his own production house called ‘Khayaali production’ with a few of his friends who also helped him in making the documentary ‘The disgustful’ for which he won three prizes at the NASFF first prize under the category of special film, best cinematography and best editing (Documentary). The enthusiastic filmmaker not only makes documentaries but his production house has produced several ads, short films and documentaries as well.
Thirty-year-old filmmaker and creative director said that this success is because of the help of his team members, which includes Mariam Hassan Naqvi, Sheikh Mubashir, Hammad Javed and Ibrahim Hassan who all helped him from assisting him in directing to producing the documentary for the festival. “I choose philanthropy in Pakistan ad my theme and I narrated the story of a 55-year -old sweeper and his life story,” Akram told The Express Tribune. His passion to make films was there with him since he was in school but he stopped and took a break from his craft and completed his bachelor's but soon after completing his degree he realised that filmmaking is what he wanted to pursue his career in.
Getting the opportunity of scholarship and availing the chance to learn filmmaking, Akram feels that it will encourage people to opt for media as a career. “We were not told that a scholarship will be up for grabs as well when we registered. However, this is a very positive step towards the betterment of the industry and it should be appreciated as people will learn new techniques and have access to efficient equipment which will eventually help them work better in Pakistan”, he shared adding that this one year can change the way of working for a lot of people. However, it should be noted that no information about the scholarship or details about the course have been shared with the winners as yet. Akram was not even sure whether the one-year-long course is a diploma or something similar to a semester exchange programme.
‘Deedawar’ – Yawar Shah
With the hope to do something for the country and play his part in the betterment of the field, Yawar Shah who recently completed his Bachelors in Media Sciences from the University of Lahore registered his film in the festival and bagged the first award in the ‘Undergraduate’ category. Shah who submitted his final year project as the short film got to know about the festival through a webinar arranged by the NASFF team at his university where the details were shared and the opportunity that he might win a scholarship and can excel in his career encouraged him to apply. “It was a big opportunity for me as it can help me secure my future in media because with the given conditions of the media in Pakistan this can boost my career opportunities and also help me learn better,” said Shah.
The filmmaker produced a 12-minute long film on the philanthropy project of Dr Farah Akram, who has been running a trust school for the last 15 years. “I shot my film within a week. I spent more time is pre-shoot in research and planning my documentary. I sat with Dr Akram and explained to her my idea which is why the shooting was not an issue because all necessary permissions were granted,” he explained who worked on the project individually as it was his thesis project.
‘The Heart of Mehran’ – Saba Fatima
The festival not only provided the platform for young filmmakers to promote their talent but also for mobile filmmakers to enhance their skills. In the mobile film-making category the NASFF 2021 awarded a special award to Saba Fatima who is the youngest filmmaker in this festival. Fatima, who is from Hyderabad, has just cleared her sixth standard in school and has a keen interest in current affairs. She uses her mobile and tablet to shoot and make videos, and this same interest of her made her apply to this festival.
Fatima got to know about the festival through the news. “I saw it on the television in the news bulletin one day and then I researched it. After getting all the necessary information I told my parents about this and asked their permission to apply for it, to which they agreed on the condition that my studies don’t get affected,” said the young enthusiastic film-maker.
The young girl was awarded for her film which she produced under the theme of ‘the color of Pakistan’ in which she showcased the rich history of her birth city of Hyderabad. “In my 5.50 seconds documentary I have tried to capture the essence of the city and show how rich this city is in terms of history, historical places and references,” she said, adding that she uses the mobile phone to capture, edit and research about the topic and she is a one-man-team in this film-making initiative.
Fatima, being a young filmmaker didn’t receive the scholarship like the other winners due to age constraints. “Obviously all other winners are either university-going students or have already graduated and this scholarship is of university-level so I didn’t get it but even an award and such level of appreciation is enough for me to work harder in the future,” said Fatima.
‘Kaptaan’ – Huzaifa Ahmed
The festival brought a vast understanding of films under one umbrella and to proved Huzaifa Ahmed who is a student of SZABIST media sciences, a fifth-semester student. Ahmed who applied after attending the webinar at his university campus submitted one of his projects which he was working on.
Ahmed, 23, who meanwhile studying has also been working with Goldfish media as an editor for the last five years. He and his other three team members namely Wajeeha Siddiqui, Zain Affan, Zaeem Arshad were the mind behind his documentary film which won the seventh position award in the festival. Ahmed himself was responsible for DOP and editing while his workplace helped him with equipment.
The passionate filmmaker submitted a 12-minute long documentary of the philanthropy work done by Imran Khan under the name of Shaukat Khanum hospital. The documentary consisted of actors playing the role of Imran Khan and his mother and showing the journey of the cancer hospital. “As we are based in Karachi it was difficult to go and shoot so we asked the hospital administration for permission but they were kind enough to share stock videos to be used in the documentary where needed,” told Ahmed who has been doing editing and shooting of videos since he was in ninth grade.
Talking about the scholarship and the opportunity to learn better equipment and techniques he told that he is very much excited and has been looking forward to the one-year course. “It is not clear yet that either we will be compensated in our ongoing degree or we have to freeze our semesters in Pakistan but in any case, we can learn in one of the best media schools and nothing is comparable to it,” he shared also sharing that Pakistani’s concerned departments will ask them to sign a contract or a bond that they have to come back and spend particular years in the country and produce quality films but the period and clauses of that bond is not informed yet and probably it will be shared later when the students will be leaving for UCLA.
‘Magic Hands’ – Haris Latif
Despite having a sense of film-making and knowing about the festival many hesitate from registering and one such example is of Haris Latif who is a student of media studies from Sindh Madrassatul Islam University. “The Head of my Department forced me to apply for this festival and said that it’s a national level festival and I should send my work there,” said Latif who is a third-year student.
Latif chose the color of Pakistan as the theme of his film and captured the talent of a truck artist named ‘Haider Ali’ for his film titled ‘Magic hands.’ “Our work took research and more pre-shoot work than in shooting. It took us just two days to shoot the whole documentary to capture Haider’s journey,” he shared, adding that he had four of his friends who helped him in different phases from editing to direction and assistance but mainly concept, writing and DOP Latif kept in his own hands.
The young filmmaker has been working as an actor and re-enactment artist in many organisations from where he started developing an interest in film-making. “I started making vines, then vlogging and then short films. I used to see people handling the camera and wonder why can’t I do the same and that is when I started learning,” he shared whose short film has also been screened in the International 60 Second France festival.
‘The Road Army’ – Vishal Kodwani
Having dreams is different but changing your direction to achieve them is different, which is what Vishal Kodwani did when he left his engineering degree in the middle to pursue media science. “Everyone in my family is either an engineer or a doctor and same was expected of me but I left engineering after three years and started media sciences after a fight with my family but now is the time that all my fights and efforts are paying off,” he shared, explaining about his passion towards filmmaking.
Kodwani who has been working on this film for a year, which was delayed due to Covid-19 and travel restrictions has been working on films for the last 15 years. “My final thesis was on truck drivers’ journey and during the pandemic, it was difficult to shoot and follow the truck drivers on highways,” he said, adding that he applied in the festival very late but luckily the registration date was extended. Kodwani found out about the festival from the university’s administration or else he would have missed the opportunity.
His film theme was agriculture and his documentary portrayed how truck drivers are the ones who provide basic foods to the people throughout the country. “They have been arranging and trading the necessities, and it is the biggest network to provide food items across the country,” he said, adding that he is an avid traveler and that is where he got the idea to capture the journey of the drivers. How they travel in summers and winters, sleep by the roadsides, eat at dhabas and even struggle traversing through those tough routes. “The whole idea was to capture how their life is and who provides us with our basic needs,” he added.