Singer, film-maker and Marxist activist Ammar Aziz was recently included in the Christian Science Monitor’s ‘30 under 30’ list and was the only Pakistani amongst 4,300 applicants for the Talent Campus of the Berlin International Film Festival 2012 for his film Rise of the Oppressed. The Express Tribune spoke to the documentary maker whose film about the lives of power loom workers in Faisalabad and produced by a non-governmental organisation, Labour Education Foundation (LEF) brought him into the limelight.
Born into a family of activists, Aziz firmly believes that films, books and music can be used for activism. Although some people consider him a ‘liberal activist’, Aziz says that he has been part of the local communist movement for the last five years.
His activism combined with his creative grasp of visual representation has already ruffled feathers. Aziz shares that a few years ago, while working on the film Taqwacore, he faced death threats after the seminary Jamia Binoria issued statements against him.
“Who is safe here?” asks Aziz. “Anyone who speaks for their rights or stands for the truth? Then, I am not safe because I can never shut my mouth and always stand for the truth.” Unafraid of portraying stigmas, his documentaries usually emanate protest in one form or another. “Any visual that depicts the existing reality always stands-out because of it realism,” says Aziz.
At the talent campus in Berlin, Aziz intends to start working on a documentary related to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Through the film, he hopes to explore the phenomenon of ‘ostalgie’, which refers to the nostalgia for the life under the socialist system in Eastern Europe.
Besides his work as a film-maker, Aziz also dabbles in music. In November 2011, Aziz also played an important role in the leftist band Laal’s last single “Inqalab” as a composer, vocalist and director.
Currently, Aziz is working on another project with the LEF regarding the first union that has been founded by bangle makers in Hyderabad. This documentary will provide a perspective on the lives of workers who make these ornaments but are too poor to afford them.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 4th, 2012.