Filming for change

By Aleezeh Fatimah Hashmi
Tue, 05, 23

To delve into the insights and where Pakistani cinema is headed, You! talks to a few young filmmakers who are trying to make impactful movies, documentaries, and visual content to change the course of art and filmmaking…

Filming for change


Art is the most unique form of human expression. Major revolutions in the world were caused because of how art was interpreted. From Van Gogh to Sadequain to the greatest poets of every language who drew, wrote, sang, filmed, and captured their pain, rage, happiness, and several emotions, everything has contributed in one way or another to the world. Art exists to make us feel something. We are all surrounded by a piece of art, be it a song, a film, a book, or just a random rambling, that is how integrated art is in our lives.

Filming for change

A form of art that has been growing worldwide is Filmmaking. In South-Asian countries including India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and others, it is one of the fastest-growing careers. Over the years, films have changed drastically. If we stay specific to Pakistani films, tracing the history of films from the 1960s, post-independence era films were usually based on romance and action. Some of them also reflected family politics and domestic issues. Later, from the 1960s to the early 2000s, films like ‘Aaina’ sparked a thought about women’s independence and empowerment.

In the late 2000s, cinema was taken over by Punjabi films, which means it was highly commercialised. Movies with little to no story topped by lots of action were being shown and since it was being sold pretty well, everyone in the industry followed a similar path. The pattern was broken by Shoaib Mansoor’s ‘Bol’, which raised questions about the suffering of a marginalised group in Pakistan. This is when cinema took a solid turn and thought-provoking films were produced. To delve into the insights and where Pakistani cinema is headed, the scribe interviewed some young filmmakers who are trying to bring a change in society through their art. These individuals spoke about how they are trying to make impactful movies, documentaries, and visual content to change the course of art and filmmaking.

“A project of mine is going to be the very first Sindhi film to be screened at an international film festival”

- Alina Rizwan.

In a country where women find it hard to go out in daylight because of all the gender violence that has been growing for eternity, it was refreshing to speak to young female filmmakers who are inspired to come forward and look in the eye of society that brings them down by making impactful films.

Filming for change

Alina Rizwan, a young, ambitious, and passionate-for-change filmmaker explained how her films work and what themes she chooses to work on. “My work oscillates between fiction and nonfiction filmmaking. I have done several DVCs along with two web series for reputed production houses as an Assistant Director and Script Supervisor, followed by numerous other projects. I have just finished a narrative-based fiction short film that is soon to be screened at the UK Asian Film Festival as an official selection. I am also working on two nonfiction documentaries currently as a Director, one being a grant by Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy Films called ‘Pakistan Stories’. So that’s a bird eye view of my area of work.”

“My most favourite project until now is the short film ‘Vachan’, which I have just completed as a Producer. It’s going to be the very first Sindhi film to be screened at an international film festival. It is a film that raises many questions about people, society, faith, love, and everything that connects them,” she added.

“One thing about my work is, it always has to have a message and thoughtfulness behind it”

- Maliha Noor

Filming for change

Maliha Noor, a 19-year-old filmmaker from Lahore, talked about her passion associated with films and what drove her to make films at such a young age. “So, the genre I work with is indie films that are kind of dark. And one thing about my work is, it always has to have a message and thoughtfulness behind it. For me, it’s like leaving a mark on someone who’s watching it. One of my favourite things to work on was ‘Perhaps I stand on the brink of losing myself’,” she stated. Talking about the themes she likes to work on, she revealed, “I work around different themes because right now, it wouldn’t be right for me to just stick to one. Mostly, it is about female emotions and the role of women and women empowerment. My inspirations are my personal experiences. I look around and in my everyday life, there’s always something that bothers me to an end that I want to drastically change so, I turn it into the art of film.”

“I believe in filmmaking for cause and effect”

- Moiz Abbas

26-year-old award-winning filmmaker, Moiz Abbas, shed light on what inspired him to make films. His short film ‘Fruit Chaat’ was initially rejected by several production houses in Pakistan. The young boy with ambitions didn’t lose hope, released it on his own, and bagged an award for it. “I believe in filmmaking for cause and effect. If I have been blessed with a talent, as a responsible citizen, I should use it to bring a change in society. But you see, in a country like ours, everything is considered propaganda. Whenever you try to make a film that is something other than a woman crying for love, it gets banned because the plot of these films gets manipulated,” said Moiz, as he talked about his role in Pakistani cinema.

Filming for change

Elaborating his passion for films, he told, “Filmmaking, drama direction, and everything related to visual arts was our family business. As a child who grew up around lights, cameras, action, I was obviously inclined towards holding a camera. Films intrigued me, cinema spoke to me, and I was drawn towards making content that would bring a change. Hence, I learned it, and played with the camera for themes like mental health, disability, women empowerment.”

“Documentary is something I enjoy making the most, especially the thrill of it” 

- Roshail Khan

Documentaries are also slowly creeping into the cinema of Pakistan. A common belief about this form of film is that usually, they bore the audience to death, but speaking to Roshail Khan, a 21-year-old filmmaker from Karachi, who is still a student and is debunking this belief by creating elaborative and culturally rich documentaries. His recent work includes ‘Surviving Pakistani Floods’, ‘Exploring Mini Brazil’ and ‘Lost Across Borders’. He has a knack for human interest stories and he brings several emotions into his documentaries which makes it interesting for viewers. He talked about what inspired him to make documentaries and how did he know it was his area of interest.

Filming for change

He spoke with eyes wide with passion as he looked at his camera. “Documentary is something I enjoy making the most, especially the thrill of it. You explore multiple angles, you meet so many people, you learn from them, and then you share their stories with the world through your lens, and that’s something that keeps me going. I didn’t know at first that I’d be good at documentaries. When I first stepped into movies, one thing I did know was that I had a knack for natural, raw, nonfiction stories. I directed a short film called ‘Dil’ but I wasn’t satisfied with the product, even though I received a lot of appreciation for it but I knew I was capable of more. Then, I landed a project with a TV channel and made a documentary for the first time with my mobile phone camera. I spent weeks doing recce, ideating concepts, hunting and meeting people, and then filming everything. Although, the production quality wasn’t top-notch, I found myself satisfied with my storytelling and integration of the main theme i.e. diversity and acceptance.”

“Soon after that, came other documentary projects, like ‘Mini Brazil’ which was shot in Lyari, ‘The Rise of Chess in Karachi’, and ‘The Women’s Rescue Project’ in Manghopir. With these projects, I believe that I can find the right people for a story, and work on the message I’m trying to convey through their own unscripted words, which has a profound effect on the audience,” he elaborated.

“I make content around travel, food, and culture”

- Kumail Chaudhary

Filming for change

Social media has a big role to play in the promotion of all sorts of filmmaking. In the last couple of years, bloggers like MystaPaki, and others have started making short reels on Instagram which have different themes. For instance, MystaPaki’s ‘Where did women go’ gathered a lot of attention since it talked about the lack of female spaces in Karachi.

One such similar filmmaker from Karachi, known as Kumail Chaudhary talked about how he has adopted culture and diversity as a theme for his short reels. He makes content around travel, food, and culture. Talking about what inspired him to make travel-related content he shared, “Travelling is a great way to boost your health, broaden your horizons, and make memories. It also helps you improve your communication skills, learn new things about other cultures, and forget about your daily troubles for a while. With epic scenery, mind-blowing hospitality, a history that stretches back millennia, and crazy cultural diversity, there are so many reasons to travel to Pakistan in 2023. Pakistan is hands-down one of the most intriguing, wildest, and most exciting countries in the world to visit.”