Banned documentary Among the Believers wins big at New Zealand film fest

Banned documentary Among the Believers wins big at New Zealand film fest

Directors Mo Naqvi and Hemal Trivedi won the Best International Director award at Doc Edge film fest
Updated 13 May, 2016

A ban on Among the Believers, a documentary on the Lal Masjid network of madarassahs across Pakistan, may have prevented the film from getting an audience in the country, but the film continues to travel to and be feted at film festivals around the world.

Also read: Pakistan's banning spree continues as two documentaries axed for 'negative portrayals'

The documentary just won two awards at Doc Edge, an international documentary film festival in New Zealand.

Directors Mohammed Naqvi and Hemal Trivedi (who also produced and edited the film) won Best International Director and earned a special mention in the Best International Documentary category, Naqvi revealed in an Instagram post today.

This is the documentary 11th award, according to its website.

Directed by Hemal Trivedi and Mohammed Naqvi, Among the Believers follows the lives of two children, Zarina and Talha, who have attended madrassahs run by infamous Lal Masjid cleric Abdul Aziz. During the film, their paths diverge: Talha detaches from his moderate Muslim family and decides to become a jihadi preacher while Zarina escapes her madrassah and joins a regular school. Over the next few years, Zarina's education is threatened by frequent Taliban attacks on schools like her own.

The documentary also follows Abdul Aziz closely, chronicling his quest to create his own version of an Islamic utopia. The documentary premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival.

"It's a very nuanced story," Mo Naqvi said of the film. "In fact, I see it as a coming-of-age tale, one where you can see how the ideological divide in Pakistan is fostered and grows in childhood. We've devoted 5 years to this project, and it's very representative of Pakistan."

The documentary was banned by Central Board of Film Censors for containing "dialogues which projects (sic) the negative image of Pakistan in the context of ongoing fighting against extremism and terrorism" on April 25. It has since been showcased once at a private screening in Karachi.