Pakistani short film bags first prize at Girls Impact the World Festival

Pakistani short film bags first prize at Girls Impact the World Festival

Sarah Jehaan Khan from Oxford University explores the story of little Manal, a climate activist in Dir, Pakistan
Updated 13 May, 2020

There’s a reason why teachers, college professors, prosperous entrepreneurs, celebrities and just about anyone successful tells us to follow our passions.

Turns out when you follow your passion, you put in more effort and end up succeeding! In a nutshell, that’s the story of Sarah Jehaan Khan who followed her passion to make films and recently won the first prize at Girls Impact the World Film Festival.

A student at Manfield College Oxford University, Sarah’s film Passoon (پاسون) is a short film based on a young climate activist in Dir, Pakistan named Manal Shad.

Passoon means to rise for a cause and that’s what Sarah’s film shows. It documents indigenous and innovative sustainability methods from Pakistan and celebrates the leadership of young, Pakistani women — voices that are internationally overlooked in the climate movement.

Sarah told Dawn Images that she decided to tell Manal’s story because she came across a video of Manal on social media where she was giving a speech to a congregation of men in Dir about social issues in her hometown.

“I immediately knew I wanted to get in touch with her, and once I managed to find her in Dir, I spent some days at her home and visited her school where I filmed Passoon. Seeing the impact individuals such as Greta Thunberg have had, I felt it was equally important to amplify the voices of young climate activists from developing countries such as Pakistan.”

Also read: This 8-year-old might just be the youngest Pakistani climate change activist

Sarah chose to tell a story about climate change because she wanted to showcase the cost humans have to pay due to climate change and reveal how it poses a threat to basic human rights.

“Policy makers who watched my films said they had tears in their eyes, because they had never realised that increasing water scarcity means girls in developing countries cannot go to school since it is their job to fetch water everyday from miles away.”

Sarah particularly stressed on the price women or indigenous groups have to pay, which is far greater because of their vulnerability but telling this story came with its own set of challenges. She said that the greatest challenge while filmmaking Passoon was travelling and filming it in completely new and unfamiliar regions.

“Manal and her family were kind enough to let me stay at their house in Dir for the duration of the filming, which helped me do justice to her story.”

Fortunately, Sarah speaks Pashto and had no language barriers and could really connect with Manal and her family, which translated very well on screen too.

Although proud of her win, the greatest joy this prize brought to Sarah was that she was able to amplify the voices of young climate activists leading indigenous movements. She sees this win as an important lesson on how film and stories can impact people’s lives.

“This experience has made me appreciate the power film has in addressing, and even tackling global human rights issues such as climate change. I hope to continue using mediums of storytelling to address the reality of the risk climate change poses to basic human rights, but also to document innovative adaptation strategies from around Pakistan.”


Random May 13, 2020 12:15pm
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Yousuf M. May 13, 2020 01:34pm
Sarah and Manal are our heroes. Very proud of them.
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Parvez May 13, 2020 01:47pm
Amazing stuff .... kudos to them all.
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Shah May 13, 2020 02:52pm
Some sections in the Western World are really interested in Pakistani women. I am a Pakistani in West and know exactly how much they care for Pakistanis in general.
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well wisher May 13, 2020 08:12pm
Great initiative, Sarah. Minals of PK and other countries will now surface in their fights. Congrats to both of you and thanks to Minal's family for accommodating you. Best of luck.
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T-man May 13, 2020 08:54pm
Well done.
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RationalBabu May 14, 2020 01:38am
@Shah you are so deluded!
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Zak May 14, 2020 07:24am
Brilliant. Proud of Pakistani talent in media. Hope they uplift Pakistan's film and TV, and sell it to the world. Already great movies and dramas are being produced but we need to market it to world stage.
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Zak May 14, 2020 07:28am
The 'moral brigade', should stop taking their nonsense abroad. Don't give us a bad name. Every country have their social fabric, appreciate it, don't denegrate it.
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Laila May 14, 2020 08:49am
This is so amazing. Congratulations!
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Laila May 15, 2020 06:06am
@Zak so we should hide our issues because these issues don't get covered or taken seriously in our society. Problems ahoulsc be talked about in open and dealt with. This is now how we do it in Pakistan. We like to pretend there is no issue which is why we see issues ongoing even in 2020. Yes, every country has rheir issues bur that doesn't mean they censor it. Documentaries are made about everything from female inmates being abused in American jails, child labour in India, kurdish persecution in Turkey, grooming gangs abusing children in the UK, Muslims persecuted in Burma avnd China, to honour crimes in Jordan. If everybody censors their problems societies would literally never evolve. Instead of making this an image problem then demand the government take this seriously and do something. Zak, watch more documentaries. It will open your mind.
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Sanobar May 15, 2020 11:22am
Happy to read it
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