The growing trend of film festivals in Pakistan and their promotion of film novices have frequently been discussed and duly appreciated. An ongoing festival, which has been showcasing the true potential of young film-makers, is the inaugural Lahore International Film Festival, dated February 25 till February 28.
The event, which is taking place in collaboration with Summit Entertainment and Super Cinema at the Royal Palm Golf & Country Club and Vogue Towers, is providing screen space for several short and independent films.
Many young film-makers who were selected from local universities, such as the Beaconhouse National University (BNU) and National College of Arts, have been focusing on creating films that highlight social issues and are relatable for a global audience.
Lubna Khaleeq’s film Walled City Painter offers an activist’s view of the lives of renowned old city artists, like Ajaz Anwar and Saeed Akhtar. She says that she decided to make a film on her mentors, who she feels are not valued locally.
She adds that young film-makers have been inspired by the likes of Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, who received international acclaim with the Oscar success of Saving Face. She also highlights the challenges that new film-makers are faced with, which are not only limited to garnering local success, but also include achieving financial security.
“The thing is my generation has many issues to face. I really have no secure future and the same is the case for the coming generation. We get more feedback when we focus on issues that can resonate internationally,” says Khaleeq.
This is where the idea of film festivals comes to good use. As they do in India and France, film festivals provide a central point for film-makers who are working on the fringe to meet members of the film fraternity.
There are several other films, such as Nasir Mazari’s thesis project Life, a ten-minute documentary on poverty near the river Ravi in Lahore. Mazari says his intent is to shed light on poverty-stricken settlers near the river bank. He says international festivals tend to favour such stories and that they remain a driving point for many young film-makers who want to be noticed.
“I think what I wanted to show was not that there was poverty, but that whatever their [the settlers’] lives are like, they are satisfied with them,” says Mazari, who hails from Rahim Yar Khan and was BNU’s first film graduate gold medallist.
He says that he is more comfortable with the documentary film-making format, which allows one to work with a smaller budget. He did, however, do a short film based on Saadat Hasan Manto’s character Sugandhi, which has received recognition locally.
“We are talking about realities and Manto’s writings epitomise reality and society. A lot of his stories are still banned. I think that’s [because he intended] to show the real thing,” adds Mazari.
While issue-based film-making is on practicalities, Siyaah’s producer Imran Kazmi, who is also screening his film at the festival, indicates that it’s merely a trend and that he would encourage film-makers to follow their hearts rather than any formula.
“The truth is making films with social messages requires less work and money. I tell young film-makers that they have to follow their hearts and not a trend,” says Kazmi.
The festival’s format is focused primarily on screening films and bringing forth new film-makers. “I think the discussion format really just ends up being all about ‘talking.’ This [format allows] audiences and people who are aspiring to become film-makers to focus more on what is being screened than anything else,” comments Kazmi.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 28th, 2014.
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