Pakistani films might be struggling to find their footing at home, but they stand tall and proud abroad. If anything can serve as proof for that, it’s the 2022 Cannes Film Festival. Writer Saim Sadiq’s directorial debut film ‘Joyland’ became Cannes’ first official Pakistani entry, winning the jury prize at Un Certain Regard.
Seemab Gul’s ‘Haven of Hope‘ was one of ten projects chosen by La Fabrique Cinéma de ‘Institut français, a tailored programme that promotes filmmakers from emerging countries and allows them to attend and interact with French producers at Cannes. As if that wasn’t enough, the project also won the Rotterdam’s Hubert Bals Fund Script and Project Development Support, which gave it a financial lifeline, and will be the first Pakistani feature film to apply for the competitive Cinema Du Monde funding as well. The film, was selected from Pakistan for International Film Festival (IFFR)’s Hubert Bals Fund (HBF) all from female filmmakers, for its 2022 script and project development support scheme. Manager, Jeske van der Slikke shared, “Our fund is committed to defending artistic vision from courageous filmmakers across the globe, who may otherwise find it more difficult to access funding, particularly during such a fragile moment as a project’s development.”
Seemab Gul is a Pakistani artist and filmmaker based in London. Her films interweave documentary, fictional, and performative elements to explore social-political stories. Her work is interdisciplinary, immersed in the current political dialogue, examining conditions of precocity in society and focusing on the outsider experience. “Being at La Fabrique in Cannes was an incredible experience because it’s a meeting point of international cinema. It’s the largest and only festival in the world which is catered mainly for film professionals. Meeting many French and international producers has opened up lots of new co-production avenues. This is a step closer to accomplishing my dream of making my debut feature film,” she said.
The fictional story of the film revolves around three Pakistani women who have been left at an asylum – Panah Khana – by their families, who have effectively abandoned them. The film relays the story of how the three women venture out into the world for a day but eventually return after being rejected by their families for being ‘lunatics’. The film has been inspired by what Seemab observed while making a documentary for the Edhi Foundation a few years ago. The Edhi Foundation runs multiple panah ghar for people who are homeless and/or contending with mental illness. She aims to raise awareness about their lives and the problems they face in a patriarchal society. With international film festivals providing Pakistani independent filmmakers with a chance to acquire funding, there is hope for redemption for the Pakistani film industry to choose and feature better and more important content.
— Faiza M.