After a successful world premiere at the UK Film Festival last month, Yasir Hussain and Ayesha Omar's Javed Iqbal: The Untold Story of a Serial Killer has been selected for the prestigious Berlin International Art Film Festival. The movie hasn't premiered in Pakistan yet, but the director hopes Pakistanis will be able to watch it online.
On Monday, Omar took to Instagram to share a post to her stories that announced the selection at the film festival. Due to the 24-hour format, the story had since expired. Director Abu Aleeha, the filmmaker of Javed Iqbal, told Images that they had applied to eight to 10 different festivals, one of which was the Berlin International Art Film Festival.
"There are some festivals that don't take film submissions if the film has had its world premiere. In our case, we premiered Javed Iqbal at the UK Film Festival, which is why we couldn't send it to Cannes Film Festival and Venice Film Festival. Other than that, we sent our film to all other prestigious festivals. Our movie got played at the New York Film Festival and now [it has been submitted to the] Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF)."
Aleeha said that he received a positive response but had been asked to switch few things here and there in the film for TIFF. He said he feels "honoured" to see Javed Iqbal get selected for so many festivals, including the Berlin Film Festival.
Upon being asked about a release in Pakistan, the director said that the film stands "nowhere" in the country and the reason is not the censor board but an influential person who simply doesn't want it to premiere. "It's the same case as Zindagi Tamasha where after clearing the film there comes a religious entity who pressurises and therefore the film gets banned and removed. Till this day no one dares to put up the film because of religious organisations. Similarly our film also got approved from all censors, Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore. No one objected to our film but then came that one person who doesn't want this film to work. That person is powerful enough that on their command this is happening."
The director said that one can only fight with the rules. "If the censor board was to say that we need to fix certain issues in the film which is why they have decided to ban it or they ask us to delete certain dialogues, mute them, or cut scenes on the condition that it will premiere, we will fix it and prepare the film in an instant. But when it's said that you don't have the permission to clear the film, we really don't have answers for that."
Not getting the green signal from the authorities doesn't mean the film will never see the light of day in Pakistan. Aleeha told Images that he is an "open" being who is going to release Javed Iqbal on OTT. "There were a lot of scenes, sentences that we had cut for the censor board because we knew they won't be able to digest it. However, now I will make an uncut version which will be pitched to OTT platforms."
He said that whichever OTT platform the film comes out on, it will be complete and "uncensored". Aleeha confirmed that after its release online, he will be working on the sequel which will be "more brutal than part 1" of the film. According to him, part one only raised questions which will be answered in its sequel.
Javed Iqbal was originally supposed to be released in October 2022, but the premiere was pushed to December 24 because it was still being cleared by the censor boards. December proved to be unlucky as well — the film's release experienced yet another delay due to a rise in Covid-19 cases, according to Omar. The release date was then rescheduled to January 28.
The film had its Karachi premiere at Nueplex Cinema on January 25, attended by the cast and crew as well as other members of the entertainment fraternity. The very next day, the director took to Twitter and shared that the Punjab government had put a halt to the film hitting the cinemas.
The film is based on the investigation into Javed Iqbal, the serial killer who killed 100 young boys in Lahore and sent evidence of his crimes to the authorities and media in 1999.