A new documentary Some Lover to Some Beloved draws an unexpected parallel between the work of two of Pakistan’s literary giants — poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz and actor/writer/director Zia Mohyeddin.
"What is Zia Mohyeddin's story? What is Faiz Ahmed Faiz's story? How do they come together in work, in performance, in poetry, that's what you're going to find out...," says director Umar Riaz in an introductory video to the film.
The documentary, titled after Faiz’s poem of the same name, is special in that it takes root from rare footage of Mohyeddin’s annual readings on New Year’s eve in Lahore; what makes it doubly special is that the footage happens to be of an extraordinary performance.
"It happened completely by chance,” Umar tells Images. While he was in Lahore for the shoot of a film he was making for his Master's degree at Tisch School of Art at NYU, Umar decided to also film the recital while he was in town.
This was December 31, 2010 — "a very special year because it was the year of Faiz's 100th birthday." For the first time, Mohyeddin dedicated his show to the work of one author. In that reading, he correlated Faiz's poetry and prose together.
Umar didn’t have any specific plans for the footage and was pleasantly surprised when his classmates and professors back in New York showed a lot of interest in it. "I had subtitled it a little bit, but they wanted to know more about the story behind the poetry, what was Faiz's story, what was Zia sahab's story. That's how it started in 2010/2011."
Umar did a lot of other work in between, but slowly the footage became the basis of his thesis film for his Master's degree, for which he went on to shoot some more in Lahore and New York. He submitted a 75-minute version for his thesis but proceeded to work further on the film for a number of years.
To complete the film, Umar had launched a Kickstarter campaign for the film’s post-production. He managed to raise about 9,000 dollars, which is quite the feat given that he was repeatedly told that the film was non-commercial, had a niche audience. Then, fortuitously, a private investor came forward, offering to finance the entire cost of the film’s post-production. Umar didn’t need the Kickstarter funds anymore, but he says that people’s generosity was really moving.
"It’s one thing to buy a ticket, but it’s quite another thing to donate as generously as people have on this project. That really touched me. It gave me a lot of hope for potentially finding a distributor in Pakistan for this kind of film."
"[Faiz and Zia Mohyeddin] are big personalities, big stories — their stories are basically Pakistan's stories in many ways. What Faiz sahab lived through from government to government, military dictatorship to military dictatorship, what Zia sahab went through, living abroad for a number of years. But it's not just about Zia sahab or Faiz sahab — it's about our history, our culture, our poetry. We’ve covered a lot of ground in the film."
Umar expects the film to have its world premiere at an international film festival in the fall, after which he hopes to screen the film in Pakistan.