Instep Today

Pakistan to hold its first Pocket Cinema Film Festival

By Magazine Desk
Thu, 11, 15

The Pakistani film industry is going through some exciting times indeed. Not only is it witnessing a rebirth of sorts; turning over a new leaf from its god forsaken, mind-numbing days when gandasa-holding, nefarious villains and over-the-top,

The Pakistani film industry is going through some exciting times indeed. Not only is it witnessing a rebirth of sorts; turning over a new leaf from its god forsaken, mind-numbing days when gandasa-holding, nefarious villains and over-the-top, melodramatic love stories were a sorry excuse for cinematic content, it is also taking risks and experimenting like never before. Over the past couple of years, the industry has seen more than a handful of films of diverse and off-beat nature such as Zinda Bhaag, Moor and Manto. From biopics to nonsensical comedies, emotional dramas to action-thrillers, we have done it all and in a rather short span of time. We have made gripping shorts, realistic documentaries and full-length features whilst garnering immense appreciation from across the world for doing so. It is then only a natural evolution for filmmakers to push boundaries and try something new and different and that’s where Pakistan’s first Pocket Cinema Film Festival steps in – an initiative by Kamran Atta and Abid Beli of iSmart Films. ((Kamran Atta and Abid Beli, co-founders of iSmart Films, with filmmaker Sarmad Sultan Khoosat.)) iSmart Films is a production house that uses smart phones as its basic tool for making films. It is aimed at empowering the Pakistani youth; media graduates, who fail to secure a high-profile career either because they don’t have relevant contacts in the industry or because they can’t afford the equipment and bear the cost of production to set up their own venture, by providing them relevant training and subsequently giving them an opportunity to work for the company and their upcoming web channel. If you are wondering how one can make a good quality full-length film on a smart phone, then knowing that Sundance Film Festival’s breakout hit Tangerine was shot entirely on an iPhone 5s might help putting things into perspective – but we’ll get to that, later. For now the world has witnessed eight international pocket cinema film festivals including America’s famous Original iPhone Film Festival and the duo is all set to become pioneers of it across Asia. “A couple of years ago, I used to click photographs on my smart phone using various techniques like adding a coloured glass in front of the phone camera, etc. The idea just intrigued me. I started a page where I used to share my work and I attracted a lot of curious followers on it,” Kamran told Instep. “Then one fine day, three of us friends, including Abid and Adnan Iqbal, who runs a media house in Dubai, discussed the possibility of hosting a photography festival using smart phones. After much deliberation we realized that it may become near impossible to screen submissions because anybody may be able to send a photo without any depth whatsoever. That’s when we decided that we should instead just focus on videos and films. And upon extensive research, we found that smart phone filmmaking has been happening around the world for a while now and eight such film festivals have already taken place. That’s when we approached and collaborated with iPhone Film Festival and Mobile Film Festival to introduce this in Asia through Pakistan, first.” Screening, however, is still proving to be a tough task for they have already received over a 1000 entries from 110 countries since the press conference on June 14 and more are welcomed up until the 5th of December, before the festival kicks off in all its glory on December 19. But coming to the question of quality and production, we ask Kamran if smart phone films are able to match the standards of those made with proper digital equipment. Smart phones may be cost-effective but can they replicate the finesse and fluidity of a DSLR? “You’d be surprised to know that filmmaker Martin Scorsese has actually shot a commercial using an iPad and that both Bentley and Volvo have been making commercials using iPhone 5s for the past two years,” Kamran said. “Nowadays, smart phones have cameras ranging from 8 mega pixels to 41 mega pixels. An LG grand offers you 4K resolution – same as that of a DSLR. Moreover, this market is evolving so fast that now you get phone kits that include lenses which can be attached to your phone so quality is no longer an issue. The movie Olive was in fact shot attaching a 35mm lens to the smart phone using a duct tape.” Back to the festival, preparations for it are already underway. The two have been holding awareness workshops in universities across Pakistan and welcoming groups of students to send in their submissions. Paid workshops are also taking place, every alternative week, at the Commune Artist Colony, with input from Yousuf Bashir Qureshi and Eman Syed, producer of Ali Safina and Danish Taimoor-starrer Jalaibee. The festival, which will be travelling not only across cities but also countries including the UAE, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, will begin with a two-day event in Karachi. A total of 30 to 40 films will be screened at the PACC and Arts Council on the first day and will compete for public-voted awards while the top 8 films, selected by an expert jury, will be showcased on the second day. Each jury member will be given around 25 films for the screening process, out of which only five will be shortlisted. The jury boasts of some interesting and influential names from Pakistan’s film and television industry including Shehzad Nawaz, Jami Mehmood, actor Faysal Qureshi, Adil Murad, Yousuf Bashir Qureshi, Raheel Rao and Furqan Siddiqui. Also attending the event will be Ruben Kazantsev, Hollywood producer-director and the founder of America’s iPhone Film Festival. The festival will end with a glamorous awards night called the Smart Oscars where these aspiring, young filmmakers will walk the red carpet like any other popular celebrity in the country. However, Kamran and Abid’s work does not end here. The two will also be launching the School of Smartphone Film Production at the festival. “From the entries we are receiving, there may be many who do not make the cut because they lack the expertise. With our school, we want to train these people how to work and produce creative stuff with smart phones through various courses. And just not filmmaking but also audio-balancing, composing, cinematography and even acting and script-writing,” Abid added. “We want to help those who lack the resources and from there on we will be developing a web portal that will feature works of our students and put them on the world map.” Also in the works is a Web TV, around the lines of Netflix, which will feature productions and dramas made specifically for it. Kamran and Abid are aiming high and while there dream has already taken flight, its success will be unveiled on December 19.