Documentary: Living amongst the dead

Published: December 15, 2010
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Nameera Ahmed’s documentary focuses on IDPs who have been forced to take shelter in a graveyard.

Nameera Ahmed’s documentary focuses on IDPs who have been forced to take shelter in a graveyard.

KARACHI: As floods struck Pakistan in summer, residents of Thatta were forced to evacuate their homes and lands and over 0.1 million people had to take shelter in the area known as Makli Necropolis.

Nameera Ahmed’s short documentary titled The Living Amongst the Dead which was screened on Tuesday evening in the city at the Goethe Institut in Pakistan, focuses on bringing the plight of these internally displaced people (IDPs) to the forefront.

The documentary highlights the plight of families stationed at the graveyard. The film begins by telling the audience about those sheltered in the graveyard and the “kind hospitality of the dead people who shelter them in such  troubled times”.

“There are two aspects to the documentary, one is the historical aspect and the second looks at how humans have come to live with dead people,” said Ahmed.

The Makli Necropolis, where the first graveyard is 1400 years old, is spread over an area of 912 acres and is located close to Thatta. The Makli graveyard is famous for having graves of those who belonged to the aristocracy, as well as mystics and men of power and privilege. The historical graveyard is a Unesco protected site and is famous as “it is believed that all your sins are forgiven, if you are buried here,” tells the documentary.

Ahmed believes that “The IDPs had a visual connection with the tombs, which are made up of stones, bricks and ceramics.”

Despite living in these conditions and having lost everything they own, there is still an element of hope amongst these IDPs. Ahmed was surprised when she found out that they greeted the birth of a baby amongst them with joy even while stationed at the graveyard.

Ahmed also spoke extensively about the fact that, “The government is a bit slow in acting and it is the Non Governmental Organisation Al-Khidmat which has the lead role in conducting relief activities and in providing relief goods.”

However, the government was aware that these refugees were camped in the graveyard and after taking refuge at the graveyard for almost two months, the IDPs were informed by government officials that they had to move back to the villages as the flood water had receded. Ahmed believes that the government was working hard to send them back home because the graveyard is a protected site.

The director has also made another documentary titled Charms of Transitoriness for the Goethe Institut which highlights 10 heritage sites of lower Sindh and their significance.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 16th, 2010.

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