Pakistani cinema is certainly having a moment in the international spotlight this year. Whether it’s documentaries such as Song of Lahore or commercial fare such as Manto and Moor, local films have managed to leave a solid impression on audiences worldwide. The latest offering from Pakistan to win international acclaim is a documentary called A Walnut Tree by filmmaker Ammar Aziz, which has bagged the top prize at the Film South Asia Festival that recently concluded in Kathmandu, Nepal.
A Walnut Tree has been made under the banner of The Justice Project, that aims to bring together scholars, activists and filmmakers from across South Asia to address issues of social justice. Shot at the Jalozai camp in KPK, the film tells the tale of an old man, Baba, as he reminisces about a distant homeland. The documentary sheds light on the turmoil faced by internally displaced people who flee violence and oppression in their countries.
The film was awarded the Ram Bahadur Trophy for Best Film at the regional film festival, along with a cash prize of USD 2,000. This isn’t the first film made by Aziz, a Lahore-based independent documentary filmmaker, to gain recognition. His projects, which focus on labour and gender issues, have been shown at various international film and human-rights events including the Solidar Silver Rose Award in Brussels and ABF’s 100 years Jubilee in Stockholm along with several labour conferences in Europe and Asia. In 2012, he represented Pakistan in a series of film-related events in various American states for his documentary Daughters of a Lesser God, about female bangle-makers in Hyderabad. The filmmaker has also featured in the Christian Science Monitor’s “30 under 30” people to watch out for.
Faiz Festival 2015 pays tribute to the celebrated poet
The Faiz International Festival 2015, held on the occasion of Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s death anniversary that falls on November 20th, brought together scholars, academics, poets, actors and musicians for four days of literary output in Lahore. Adeel Hashmi, grandson of the legendary poet and one of the festival’s organizers, spoke about the increasing difficulty of putting up theatre performances and other artistic ventures with each passing year in Pakistan; yet the event managed to get together an impressive list of participants from both India and Pakistan. From musical performances by Tina Sani and Ali Sethi to talks by renowned Indian filmmaker Muzaffar Ali, British-Pakistani writer Tariq Ali and filmmaker Sarmad Khoosat, amongst various others, culture enthusiasts had a varied programme to choose from, which included interactive literary sessions, narrations of Faiz’s poetry, plays, panel discussions and mushairas.
The most eagerly anticipated segment of the festival was Naseeruddin Shah’s theatre play Einstein. The one-man play had the celebrated actor portray the famous scientist in a rarely seen light, exposing his vulnerable, human side, his unique sense of humour and of course, his groundbreaking theories on science. The audience sat spell-bound as Shah embodied the white-haired eccentric to perfection, even copying his German accent.
Held at two venues, the Alhmara Arts Centre on Mall Road as well as Faletti’s Hotel, the festival gave Lahoris a chance to experience literature, art and music while reviving the words of one of Pakistan’s greatest literary minds, Faiz Ahmed Faiz.