Independent film-makers in Pakistan face a multitude of issues ranging from a lack of infrastructure to that of qualified film crews. These issues serve as major hindrances to struggling members of the industry who already find it difficult to have their voices heard. Aware of the stark realities of the industry, film-makers Assad Zulfiqar Khan and Junaid Malik decided to take bold steps to change the scenario with their new production house, Mono No Aware Productions.
“Independent film-making hasn’t survived because film has socially been seen as ‘dirty art’,” says Khan. “Besides Shoaib Mansoor, we have no commercially successful film-makers. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t other good film-makers out there — they just aren’t given the opportunity.”
Khan, who received positive reviews for his independent film Haal, feels that film-makers in Pakistan do not have the support system which is important for productivity. “I’ve noticed how important it was for people to work together and pool in their collective resources, be it time or expertise,” he says.
With Mono No Aware Productions, they aim to provide such a system. “What we propose is to take the burden off film-makers by dealing with the more mundane but necessary side of things,” he says. He aims to improve the distributive mechanisms and non-production related aspects in the industry, as well as help with the financial aspects of film-making by pitching for funding on behalf film-makers and co-producing indie films.
Additionally, apart from their new production house, the duo plan on bringing an accredited film festival to Pakistan — complete with an international jury that will not only judge, but also hold classes and conduct question and answer sessions. Khan points out that there are no film festivals in the country as of now, and for film-makers these festivals are essential to showcase their work and to create a professional network. Without them, film-makers are also left without access to distribution networks to get their films out into the market. They are left struggling using social media avenues such as YouTube, instead.
Also, through their production house, Khan and Malik plan on starting an apprenticeship programme, giving young film-makers the opportunity to work alongside more qualified and seasoned film-makers to learn the tricks of the trade and gain experience. The duo intends to tap into an international network, which they have accumulated over the last few years, including people from across the globe such as Iram Parveen Bilal, Faraz Waqar, Hadi Ghandour among others, to help as consultants. They hope that through these various initiatives, Pakistani cinema can soar to international heights.
“I would love to see Pakistani cinema take on the Iranian model of film-making whereby their films have a sizeable audience abroad,” says Khan. “A good story is a good story regardless of what language it is in. And countries like Britain, the US, Canada and the UAE have a sizeable expat population that would be receptive to Pakistani films,” he adds.
Despite all these efforts on their end, however, Khan explains that support from the government will be essential for the film industry to progress in the country. Several inherent challenges such as widespread censorship, lack of distribution and piracy are rampant and can only be rectified by the help of the authorities.
“Engaging with the government is absolutely necessary if any sort of film industry has to flourish in Pakistan,” says Khan, adding that any kind of support — be it in the form of tax breaks, patronage of the arts or even censorship reduction — is necessary. “We hope to voice our concerns to whoever may be in power. This however, is going to take time. Until and unless film-making becomes a viable industry, no government is going to take it seriously.” Looking at Pakistan’s track record, it seems that this will be an uphill battle, but Khan seems realistic and positive about its actualisation.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 7th, 2012.