Beyond The Wetlands by Arsalan Majid promises to take you on an unforgettable journey to Pakistan's north as part of a search and rescue mission to retrieve a man stuck in the mountains.
Believed to be Pakistan's first feature of its kind to be made in the area, Beyond The Wetlands is an adventure/survival indie film shot in the K2 region. The trailer for the film was recently released, as was the poster.
Though the premise of the film bears an eerily striking resemblance to mountaineer Ali Sadpara's case, it bears no connection to him or his disappearance. In fact, the movie has been in development since August 2020 and was filmed over the course of 16 days, from December 2020 to January 2021. Sadpara and two other mountaineers went missing on February 5, 2021 while scaling the K2 and was declared dead on February 18 after a search mission found no trace of him.
"We were actually quite stunned when Ali Sadpara's unfortunate incident happened as during the shoot we would hear stories about him from the locals. The mountaineering fraternity is quite limited in Pakistan, and so everyone we met during production was either related to him or had trekked alongside him at some point," director Majid told Images. "However, since the shoot wrapped up on January 13, 2021, prior to the unfortunate incident at K2, the film bears no connection to him or the events that followed."
The movie, which has been made by AWB Films, stars Jahangir Abdullah, Ishaq Hushevi and Ibrahim Michael. It also features another local hero, mountaineer Muhammad Karim, also known as Little Karim. In fact, some of the other actors involved in Beyond The Wetlands are also mountaineers. Karim has a minor role in the film and all the other actors are new faces and all from Gilgit-Baltistan, mainly the Hushe Valley.
"We chose not to go with prominent faces to give a fair chance to everyone involved based on their performance," Majid explained.
Since many of the actors are experienced mountaineers — some have even scaled multiple summits — there was no need for stunt doubles for the few action scenes in the film.
For Majid, it was a challenge working with people who are not actors by profession. "They went through a lot of practice sessions prior to the shoot and were eventually able to perform as required. We made sure to provide a comfortable working space for them and would do as many retakes as required," he explained.
"The sad thing is that these people are famous across the world in the mountaineering community but nobody here knows them and so all of them were very keen to showcase themselves to the world through this film and they gave it their 100%."
But shooting an action-adventure movie up north during the winter isn't easy, as Majid and his crew learned early on. "The problems started the day we landed on our location," he said.
The sad thing is that these people are famous across the world in the mountaineering community but nobody here knows them — Director Arsalan Majid
"The team from Karachi first had to acclimatise for a few days to adjust to the severe cold as the average temperature was -25 degrees Celsius. Soon after our production equipment started failing as batteries were not able to cope with the severe cold. Our drones started falling out of the sky randomly as their batteries would suddenly deplete while in the air."
The team also had to trek for an hour each day to reach the shoot location as there and because there are no roads, their equipment was transported via horses. "We were in the territory of wild animals like snow leopards so that was also quite scary for everyone but Alhamdulillah nothing severe happened with the team apart from the lead actor falling off the horses several times during the journey to the location and back."
Beyond The Wetlands is an indie film but the production team is currently in talks with some local distributors about a theatrical release as well as some streaming services. The film is still in the post-production stage so it's too early to say which direction the team will go. They hope to release it some time this year.