Instep Today

Must-watch short films

Instep Today
By Instep Desk
Wed, 03, 20

Several Pakistani shorts have been consistently making waves around global platforms. Instep lists down four short films that are highly recommended.

During the last couple of years, various Pakistani short films such as Darling by Saim Sadiq, Ali Sohail Jaura’s travel film, Arz-e-Pakistan (Land of Pakistan), Hammad Rizvi’s Rani and many others have not only been recognized but have also won awards at multiple international film festivals. There is something magnetic about short films. What is unique about shorts is that they don’t always have a complicated plot, making it easier to get to the message being put across. With limited characters and original content, shorter time spans and a fraction of the budget, shorts allow anyone with passion and a creative vision to emerge as a storyteller and filmmaker.

While short films were underrated in the past, numerous Pakistani shorts have been consistently making waves on global platforms. Instep gives you a lowdown on four must-watch short films…


Maaz Maudood’s Machinepur has made it to a number of festivals such as Official Selection AKS International Minorities Festival 2019, Official Selection Asia Peace Film Festival - Campus Cinema 2019 and Official Selection SSFC - StarzPlay Shortfilm Competition 2019.

Director, writer, animator and narrator of the short, Maaz Maudood previously told Instep, “My main purpose, message behind the film, is a little wake-up call maybe for people to be more altruistic. We are all so caught up in our routines that we’ve forgotten about the main things that matter, which is love, compassion and empathy.”

The short is set in a dystopian future and is “a story about finding purpose and meaning in a robotic world. It is the journey of a robot, named Circuit. After finding himself trapped in the routine created by the system, a dream leaves him with questions that had never been asked before. As he travels in search for answers, his life unfolds in front of him in ways he had never imagined. Based on a planet far far away, Machinepur is a ride to unexplored territories of our hearts.”


Saim Sadiq’s Darling had its North American premiere at Toronto International Film Festival last year. Besides, the romance-drama also bagged the Orizzonti Award for Best Short Film at the 76th Venice Film Festival 2019. Recently, it was announced that Darling will have its Texas premiere at the South by Southwest Film Festival (SXSW) - the most joyous festival of all. However, SXSW has been postponed due to the coronavirus epidemic. Set in a Lahori dance theatre, Darling features Mehar Bano, Abdullah Malik and Nadia Afghan, as well as transgender actor Alina Khan from Lahore. The plot revolves around a trans-woman aiming for the stars and a naive boy falling in love — when a new show is introduced at an erotic dance theatre in Lahore. What makes the 16-minute short film a must watch is the way it reflects stereotypes associated with transgender people in our society.

Stray Dogs Come Out at Night

With award-winning short film Dia to his credit, filmmaker, writer and theatre practitioner Hamza Bangash’s latest short titled Stray Dogs Come Out at Night became the first Pakistani film to have its world premiere at Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival 2020, last month. Recently the film was played in international competition at the Tampere Film Festival, Finland. Apart from this, Stray Dogs will be playing from today (March 11) to March 15, 2020, at the Regard International Film Festival in Canada.

The festival tour will also see the short film traveling to BFI Flare Film Festival, London, followed by its final screening at the Fribourg International Film Festival (FIFF), Switzerland.

The 11-minute long short film, which marks the debut of young actor, Mohammad Ali Hashmi, revolves around “the life of Iqbal, a sensitive young maalish wala (masseur) by profession, who cannot come to terms with his illness. He convinces his uncle (essayed by Adnan Shah Tipu) to take a day trip to the beach, desperate for respite.”


After premiering in New York theatres last year, two-time Academy Award and three-time Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker and journalist Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s latest animation short film, Sitara: Let Girls Dream made its way to the Los Angeles Animation Festival 2019 (LAAF).

Earlier this year, the 13-minute long short film was also screened at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. The short film released on Netflix on International Women’s Day, March 8, 2020, making it Pakistan’s first animated project to make it to the streaming site that will be available in over 190 countries.

On Monday (March 9) the animated short had its Karachi premiere. Sitara: Let Girls Dream is a silent film [no dialogues] that chronicles the life of a 14-year old girl, Pari, whose dream of being a pilot is crushed when she is forced into child marriage. It highlights the burdens of a family and the impact of a culture where girls are still struggling to fully realize their dreams. Pari’s story is told through the perspective of her six-year-old sister Mehr, who is unaware of these family traditions that lay in the path of women in her family.