Meet Shahnawaz Zali, the Pakistani filmmaker nominated for a Student Oscar

Published 04 Aug, 2016 01:02pm

Anum Rehman Chagani

Staff Writer

With an $8,000 grant from his university, Zali turned his idea into reality with his documentary about suicide bombings

With an $8,000 grant from his university Zali turned his idea into a reality with his documentary about suicide bombings
With an $8,000 grant from his university Zali turned his idea into a reality with his documentary about suicide bombings

The ultimate goal, the pinnacle of success for most filmmakers is scooping up an Oscar.

Aspiring Pakistani director and cinematographer Shahnawaz Zali seems to be getting a headstart on that; Zali's documentary 100 Steps - Sou Qadam has been nominated for the Best Film (in the narrative category) for the 43rd Student Academy Awards.

An Oscar winner herself, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy took to Twitter to share the good news and congratulate Shahnawaz.

Sou Qadam, made in 2015, chronicles the life of a young boy who gets dragged into the world of suicide bombings.

Talking to Images, the budding filmmaker reveals, "As a story-teller I wanted to create a film, which was a psychological thriller that ultimately helps defeat the stereotypical role of Pakistani’s portrayed in the media all over the globe."

"My university gave me an $8,000 grand to turn my idea into reality. With a group of friends, we set up a crew and began filming."

"I chose this subject because these things exist and it's happening all around us. I believe that for a nation to progress, we must first acknowledge and accept the fact that there is a problem. Once the problem is identified, we can then all work toward solving it."

A still from Sau Qadam
A still from Sau Qadam

The Northwestern University (Qatar campus) graduate, Shahnawaz adds, "It's a film about innocence and bravery, hopelessly entwined in the protagonist, who is brainwashed into doing things he didn't want to do. The goal was to correct the misconception of how the world views Pakistan and its people. We’re a valiant nation, with a lot of stories, and this is just a small one."

So what's next in the pipeline for him?

"Personalities such as Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, Bilal Lashari, Shaan, Humayun Saeed, Jami, Nasir Khan have built and nurtured this amazing platform for us and I want to work towards contributing to it; I'm aiming to work on feature films, commercials and television next."

"I also plan on opening a production house soon that will always have its doors open to anyone who wishes to discuss ideas, scripts or their work."

Shahnawaz at the Chicago South Asian Film Festival 2014
Shahnawaz at the Chicago South Asian Film Festival 2014

"I want to remove this barrier that limits young Pakistanis to create high-quality production. I have personally met with a lot of aspiring Pakistani filmmakers in the last few weeks and I plan on meeting more as I want to create this culture here where everyone can just walk in and share their ideas and be a part of our team. I would welcome anyone who wants to create content to join me and work toward taking Pakistan forward with its stories," divulges the hopeful 23-year-old.

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