The first day of the two-day film festival Pakistan Calling saw a low turnout on Saturday. But the stellar work of independent filmmakers, whose movies got screening at the venue, more than made up for the low turnout.
Beginning at around 10.30am at the Rangoonwala Community Centre in Dhoraji Colony, the festival kicked off by screening seven short movies made by independent documentary and filmmakers.
The first short film Child by Humad Nisar revolved around the life of a couple separately dealing with the death of their child. The mother is shown as the stronger among the two, who somehow accepts the death of her child. Meanwhile the father is having a hard time dealing with it. Though short in duration, the solo shots of the father seen trying to grapple with the death of his child are heart-rending.
Another short film with a lot of impact was Hassan Raza's No Father. With its focus on the fatherless children from the Shia Hazara community, victims of sectarian based terrorism, the film highlights the unspoken trauma of dealing with the aftermath of a tragedy.
The screening was followed by two panel discussions on the subjects of movies and television.
The first discussion moderated by Saqlain Zaidi, professor at the department of arts at the University of Karachi, began with panellists discussing the relation between cinema and television.
The moderator spoke about the golden period of Pakistan Television (PTV) dramas and the quality of production of the time.
Actor Talat Hussain spoke about the huge difference in the connectivity between actors and the overall disregard for pronunciation of words.
Owner of television channels, TV One and News One, Seema Tahir spoke about censorship and the ‘questionable’ role of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority.
The next panel discussion, a thematic focus of the First Karachi Biennale’s ‘Film as Witness’, began with filmmaker Hasan Zaidi, documentary filmmaker Nameera Ahmed, and Head of University Relations at Habib University Sibtain Naqvi as panellists.
Moderator Niilofur Farrukh, chief executive officer of Karachi Biennale, spoke about the films of yesteryears and how most of them followed the urban and rural divide and whether the undertones in such movies were felt by the audience. Taking the discussion forward, Hasan Zaidi pointed out that in 1960s urban to rural migration was taking place and it had to have an impact on the stories of the time.
He said it mattered how one read a movie. Sibtain Naqvi added that associations within a movie mattered a lot. Since there were no parallels drawn between mainstream and art cinema, directors packaged the movie well by adding political commentary, comical scenes and social message accordingly. It also at times exceeded to an overall critique of the society. Naqvi counted writer Syed Kamal’s Rangeela starrer Insaan aur Gadha as an example.
Another 1985 movie, Siyasat, chronicled the life of a man from the Middle East who decides to come to Pakistan to run in the general elections and ends up losing terribly. He quoted a recent example of a movie named Chambeli, named after Pakistan’s national flower, which came out during the general elections of 2013.
“All these movies capture the mood of the times. We may not see the undertones now. But thirty to forty years later, these movies are going to be seen as artifacts depicting a time we lived. As a result they’d be appreciated more by the people who’ll come after us,” added Naqvi.
Hasan spoke about the ban on Indian films and called it a foolish decision by exhibitors.
“There are 80 odd screens in Pakistan and the number is likely to go down. It’s because of the foolish decision taken by exhibitors with cinemas having no movies to show,” he added.
As the discussion ended, another set of films were screened.
The one that stood out was a short film on the Karakoram mountain range. Titled Paradise Melting, this film by Umar Majid follows adventurer and hiker Fazal Rahim through the mountains of Gilgit-Baltistan to show the environmental changes the range is silently going through. In one of the scenes, Fazal Rahim said that Gilgit-Baltistan had a concentration of highest mountains in the world.
Climate change and global warming is pushing back the glaciers 40 to 60 meters every decade which in turn impacts agriculture, hydro electric power and drinking water for many.
“Many of us still don’t consider it something to worry about. In time, we need to focus on what we are losing inch by inch,” added Fazal before the end credits rolled.
Originally published in Dawn, November 27th, 2016