The 10-day glitz of the Red Sea International Film Festival (RSIFF) concluded in Jeddah on Saturday, with the last screened film touching upon the most pressing issue faced by humanity — climate change.
The film Evil Does Not Exist by Ryusuke Hamaguchi — an Academy Award-nominated director from Japan — covers the topic of local communities’ role in mitigating the impact.
It is set in a small mountainous village hours away from Tokyo, where a company plans to set up a glamping site.
The locals are concerned that the exotic retreat would pollute the streams, which are their only water sources and lead to waste disposal issues.
The film carries many parallels to the so-called development projects carried out in Pakistan and packaged as mutually beneficial for the developers and local communities.
The movie showed locals refusing to budge even when told about the prospective monetary benefits they’d get from the glamping site.
The satisfying and fulfilling simple life of the villagers has been excellently contrasted with the two dissatisfied company representatives who hate their jobs and are more concerned with money than spiritual satisfaction.
The film, with minimum dialogues and unusually splendid camera work, shows the scenic beauty of the mountainous area.
The movie’s underlying message is the importance of the action local communities should take to stop the capitalist forces from destroying the environment.
Mr Hamaguchi, who started the project as a short film, later decided to turn it into a feature film.
Pakistani short films
Two Pakistani short films were also screened at the festival. One of the films, Solatia, was about a woman being displaced after military operations in Pakistan.
While the movie didn’t name any of the places or specific operations, it depicted the issues faced by people in makeshift camps. It also showed the embezzlement of funds collected in the name of displaced persons.
The director, Hira Yousafzai, who was present at the screening, told Dawn that as a Pakhtun woman, the movie’s topic and theme were really important to her.
“[When] the story was being developed, a huge population of the country was displaced. They had no homes and had to relocate to temporary shelters, which were often tents,” said Ms Yousafzai.
She termed Solatia’s world premiere at the festival “an incredible experience” as the film was shown alongside other outstanding works from around the world. “The audience’s response was genuinely heartening.”
About the title of the film, she said Solatia was derived from the Latin word solatium, a term coined during wars to describe collateral damage — people’s homes and also their family members.
“The families were later offered a “solatium” which was a sum of money seen as an apology, and the acceptance of this sum was seen as forgiveness,” Ms Yousafzai said as she credited Jonathan Sonnenberg — who wrote the script — for coming up with the title.
Talking about her journey to the festival, the director said she had submitted a short film, which she wrote and directed, to the Muslim International Film Festival (MIFF).
It won the best short film award, and MIFF CEO Hirra Farooqi offered to collaborate. Mr Sonnenberg began working on the script, and Ms Yousafzai took the role of the director and co-writer.
The second short film was Eid Mubarak, which depicts an issue ignored by most Pakistanis and, in fact, the whole Muslim world.
The short film, directed by Mahnoor Euceph, explores the theme of trauma experienced by children when animals are sacrificed on Eidul Azha.
The main character in the movie is Iman, who, like other children, goes to buy a goat for Eid and names her Barfi.
She takes care of the goat as her pet, showering her with love and affection. On the morning of Eid, she couldn’t bear the sight of her dear goat being slaughtered.
However, her efforts to save the goat proved futile, and she witnessed her pet being slaughtered in front of her and then forced by her mother to eat its meat.
Originally published in Dawn, December 11th, 2023