A fundraiser dinner for the Pakistan International Film Festival (PiFF) under the newly-formed Karachi Film Society (KFS), which is scheduled for the last week of March 2018, was held at Governor House on Sunday night, with Sindh Governor Mohammad Zubair in attendance.

Ms Sultana Siddiqui, founder and president of Hum TV Network addressed the guests: “The time to fill the void for a film festival has arrived. To strengthen the roots of the film industry and its revival it’s important to enlist the support of like-minded people such as Dr Ishrat Husain, Ameena Saiyid, Jamil Baig, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy. KFS was formed to support positive trends in film-making. The first KFS meeting was held at Governor House followed by this fundraising dinner.

“Important film festivals around the world promote cities. PiFF aims to give a platform to talented film-makers and documentary-makers bearing cultural colours. With it, we hope to bring back life to this city of ours. We ask for support from all quarters and the diplomatic community.”

PiFF Festival director Abrarul Hassan and founder of the 60 Second International Film Festival walked the guests through a visual presentation of the PiFF’s categories and events such as primary goal, membership and perks, film screenings, workshops, residencies, industry linkages, mentoring, gala opening and closing, panel discussions, exhibition of posters, film archive, photography and music, mobile screening, VR screening booths and AR display, activity timeline, daily story competition, women and film, besides features, documentary features, shorts etc.

He said it created an opportunity for South Asian film-makers to work with their Pakistani counterparts and nurture the new generation of film-makers besides exploring the art of storytelling.

“Why Karachi? Karachi was, is and always will be the custodian of film-making in Pakistan,” the festival director said.

Governor Zubair, who is also the patron-in-chief of PiFF, in his address said, “I like films just as much as anybody else. But film-making was not considered a good thing during the ‘Islamisation’ era in Pakistan. The Quaid-i-Azam’s narrative for Pakistan calls for a much more balanced approach, to maintain a fine balance and freedom for all cultural and social interests and the freedom to express oneself.

“Creativity is best expressed through sports, TV, films etc. Karachi was once at the heart of film-making with Waheed Murad, Mohammad Ali, Nadeem, Shakeel, all great stars from Karachi. Then the industry shifted to Lahore but it has now returned to Karachi. World-class films are being produced now.

"Me and my wife love going to cinemas to watch films, especially Pakistani films. The last film we saw was Punjab Nahi Jaungi. It was outstanding in terms of acting, sets, music, dances, songs etc. It is just one example of kind of films being made these days in Pakistan and Karachi has now made this difference in film-making.”

He spoke about how Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy has created a strong and positive identity for Pakistan. “I’m personally a big fan of hers. We need to change the narrative for this new Pakistan. Just one example was when Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy was invited to the PM House along with members of the diplomatic corps and A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness was screened in an attempt to reign in honour killings. Eventually the legislation was passed. Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s topic remains outstanding.”

He said PiFF has given momentum to Karachi. “We are fighting for Karachi on various fronts such as working with Jahangir Khan, holding hockey tournaments and I’m trying to bring the PSL final match to Karachi. It’s been a long journey and Karachi has changed dramatically in the past four-five years with the law and order [situation] improving swiftly. We’re making efforts for further improvements and I promote Karachi in various Gulf and Middle Eastern cities during my visits there.”

At this moment, the Sindh governor pointed out that some of the elite of Karachi were not present at the fundraiser and appealed to them for support for the project.

Former State Bank governor Dr Ishrat Hussain, vice president of the KFS, said people asked him why he supports PiFF. “I’ve been involved with Javed Jabbar, Zia Mohyeddin and Arshad Mahmud in the setting up of the National Academy of Performing Arts. It’s important to promote the soft image of Pakistan and to counter its hard image abroad. To change international perception about Pakistan with interaction, sports, music, drama theatre, film, and bringing people from different backgrounds together. Karachi is now a different city from what it was back in 2013.”

He also paid tributes to Ameena Saiyid, managing director of Oxford University Press, for the Karachi Literature Festival and held high hopes for PiFF. “We as citizens have a responsibility towards Karachi,” he said.

At this point, it was announced that due to lack of time, the Q&A session with Javed Jabbar stood cancelled and the guests were asked to proceed to dinner.


Published in Dawn, October 10th, 2017

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