Pakistani-American actor Faran Tahir disappointed over ban of film I'll Meet You There in Pakistan
Pakistani-American director Iram Parveen Bilal’s film I’ll Meet You There starring Pakistani-American actor Faran Tahir, Muhammed Qavi Khan and Nikita Tewani was banned by Pakistan's Central Board of Film Censors (CBFC) a week prior to its scheduled release in cinemas. Tahir expressed his disappointment over the matter and claimed content that encourages dialogue is being discouraged.
"For the past several weeks, I have been trying to make sense of why I’ll Meet You There, a movie we were hoping to have released in Pakistan, was banned. Our sadness stems from the fact that our only intention was to share our work with our fellow Pakistanis. Pakistan has under 250 movie theatres in total. Had the movie released in Pakistan, it would have probably opened in a handful of cinemas so it was never about making money," the Iron Man actor captioned the post. He added that the "only hope" was to "draw attention to the issues Pakistanis face on daily basis living in foreign lands."
The Star Trek actor said that the movie does not slander any of our core values but does encourage dialogue on certain issues. "The message of the film is to find love, understanding, tolerance and respect. The very values that we have been guided by our Creator," he added.
Tahir mentioned how some of the domestic content "pushes boundaries of imagination and our values" but is accepted completely, terming it "disheartening and saddening." In comparison, the actor feels like they're being sent a message to avoid questioning or discussing issues that might encourage dialogue. "VERY DISAPPOINTING…." he concluded.
The CBFC had stopped the film's premiere in Pakistan last month because it believed the film “does not reflect true Pakistani culture, portrays a negative image of Muslims” and is against the “social and cultural values of Pakistan.”
In a statement to Variety at the time, director Bilal responded, “I respectfully disagree that there is just one notion of what Pakistan and Pakistani values are. When we ask the diaspora to contribute and donate, when we even care to enable them to vote in elections, then we should also include their troubles, identity struggles and issues as ‘Pakistani.’"
The filmmaker encouraged people to be more openminded and let artists do their job which is to inspire. "Let’s please end the elitism that a nation or religion can only belong to a select few. Such fearful silencing is not the way forward for a country that is vibrantly developing in population, promise and identity. We as artists have a responsibility to showcase and provoke thought, to inspire and engage with a society that is equally provoking and expanding.”
I’ll Meet You There a story of inter-generational and international immigration conflict that follows a Pakistani-American family living in Chicago. The family includes Majeed (a policeman), his teenage daughter Dua (a gifted ballerina) and Baba, Majeed’s long-estranged father from Pakistan who visits unexpectedly. The film highlights Baba's influence on Majeed's career and Dua's passion for dance.
The movie was nominated for the Narrative Feature Grand Jury Award at the South by Southwest film festival (SXSW) in 2020 before the spread of Covid-19 forced the festival’s cancelation.