Dr Ishrat Husain speaks at the press conference on Thursday. — Photo: White Star
Dr Ishrat Husain speaks at the press conference on Thursday. — Photo: White Star

The first Pakistan International Film Festival (PIFF), an initiative of the Karachi Film Society (KFS), will be held from March 29 to April 1. This was announced at a press conference at a local hotel on Thursday.

Former senator Javed Jabbar welcomed the guests on behalf of the KFS. He said we had gathered to launch an event that brought together three distinct strands. The first was Karachi. “What an incredible city it is. So diverse, it has elements of cultures which are probably not found elsewhere in Pakistan. Its creativity, its capacity to attract people, most of them the finest… together they make it an incredible city… Love it, hate it, but there is no substitute for this incredible city. So, Karachi will have the honour and pleasure of hosting the festival.”

Mr Jabbar said the second strand was the cinema. “What a medium,” he exclaimed. He said television as a visual medium was limited. In this age of immediacy, cinema retained its own special magic. It refused to become an immediate medium. The cinema inspired the revival of cinema.

The third strand, Mr Jabbar said, was Pakistan because it’s the first Pakistan International Film Festival. He also praised a previous similar effort, the Kara Film Festival, but what was special about the PIFF, he said, was the rare constructive collaboration between the government of Sindh and the federal government.

Read on: How useful are film festivals and conferences for Pakistani cinema, really?

KFS president Sultana Siddiqui said this kind of a task could be undertaken by those who were passionate about their work, whose heart was into it. Members of the KFS were credible people. The idea behind making society was to give the younger lot that was involved in filmmaking a platform from where they could think about their work, float ideas and prove their worth when they got the chance to do it.

Ms Siddiqui mentioned the support of the Sindh governor, the Sindh government and the Federal Information Ministry for the initiative. She took the name of Mariam Aurangzeb for her encouraging attitude that resulted in the Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA) becoming a partner of the event.

PNCA DG Jamal Shah said cinema was a composite art form that celebrated life in the most magical way. “It educates you, informs you, it empowers you and entices you to go out and try to change your fate.”

Ameena Saiyid said the PIFF would project the ‘real’ image of Pakistan. The medium of film had the five Cs of the 21st century: collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, communication and compassion.

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy said the event did not only launch the PIFF but also the KFS, which was an important step because we needed a community where we could transfer our skills. One of the things that we lacked [in filmmaking] was the technical know-how and hopefully the KFS would lead the way [in solving that problem].

Dr Ishrat Husain gave the concluding speech. He said once in Paris a Frenchman told him that they [the French] were more interested in listening to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan than attending a seminar on a political issue. He argued the best way to project the image of a country was through sport, cinema, art, music etc. The KFS would introduce the talent, the creativity of our people. “The world is going to survive on innovation and creativity,” he remarked, adding that the festival would be an event for the masses.

Abrarul Hasan gave a presentation on the various programmes lined up for the festival.

Speaking at the event sidelines, Ronak Lakhani said, "I'm proud ot be one of the board members of PIFF. I'm looking forward to showcasing Pakistani talent to people from all over the world. We've been doing work for education, health, etc, but now is the time to promote our art, music, films."

Jamil Baig, Sirajuddin Aziz and Saeeda Laghari also spoke.

With additional information from Irfan ul Haq

Originally published in Dawn, January 12th, 2018