Wednesday May 22, 2024

19 women filmmakers celebrated for documentaries focused on daily challenges, taboos

By Zubair Ashraf
September 23, 2023

Nineteen women filmmakers from Sindh and Balochistan — who produced 10 documentaries on issues ranging from arts, human rights and climate change -- were celebrated for their work at an event at a hotel on Friday evening.

These women were part of a mentorship and grant programme ‘Stories from Southern Pakistan’ organised by award-winning filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s Patakha Pictures in collaboration with the US Consulate in Karachi.

Rani Wahidi, who, along with Mashal Baloch, produced ‘Sculpted Defiance’ -- a documentary about the internal and external struggles of a sculptor in a conservative society -- stole the show with her own inspiring story.

Her parents migrated to Pakistan from Afghanistan fleeing the Taliban in 1990s. As a child, unfortunately she could not obtain formal education but learned Urdu alphabets overhearing the students in the school adjacent to her house in Quetta.

“I appeared in matric as a private student and finally on my third attempt cleared the exam with the least passing marks… However, I did a master’s in journalism from the University of Balochistan with the highest marks,” Wahidi said.

She credited documentary films for changing her world as they helped her become a Balochistan correspondent for DW.

“When I heard the news that Sharmeen had won the Oscar. I asked my colleague what I would do now. He said you can bring the second. Now I am after it,” she shared.

Mahwish Saeed, who, along with Saira Baloch, produced ‘Pehchaan’ -- a documentary about a married man with kids, chef by profession, pursuing his passion for dancing dressed like women -- said that she wanted to be a voice for others.

As a survivor of domestic violence and mother of three who lived alone, she was very devastated and had nowhere to go. “But then it occurred to me that life never ends. It is always the beginning whenever you think it is the end,” she added.

She embraced her passion and started making films on topics usually not discussed, especially taboos and cultural stigmas. “I made my way. And I want to carry this forward to let other women who go through a lot see a light for their life,” she commented.

The trailer of ‘The Silence After The Storm’, a documentary film made by Alina Rizwan and Alina Azhar on the topic of climate change-induced floods affecting the pursuit of education for children in Sindh, was the last to be shown.

Sharing the reason for choosing this topic, Azhar said that if her lens was not making the audience think and question then her filmmaking had no value, while Rizwan said that “we can never know of our privileges until we know the pains and sufferings of others”.

Other participants included Aqsa Abdul Qadir, Amatullah Saeed, Kainat Thebo, Ayesha Abro, Shalalae Jamil, Ayessha Qureshi, Zehra Nawab, Mariam Paracha, Zainab Asif, Aimen Khan, Yamna Waqar, Nafeesa Ali and Zainab Younas.

Each of the participating teams was given Rs1 million to create their documentary film, 20 to 40 minutes long. Conrad Tribble, consul general of the US in Karachi, said: “Empowering women and ensuring their economic inclusion is a key priority for us. Through their films, they highlight critical social issues, challenge assumptions, and offer innovative perspectives, shedding light on daily challenges.”

He added, “From the impact of last year’s floods to using theatre to advocate for human rights, their work provides us all with a fresh perspective and deeper insight into issues that impact us all - this is a crucial step toward creating a brighter future for everyone.”

Speaking with The News, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy said, “We are laying the groundwork for an ecosystem of female filmmakers in the country. They will go back to their communities and enable other women and I think that’s how an industry starts when people who are trained go on to train other people.”

She added that in a previous round of this programme, they had made five films, which bagged over 12 international awards. “The fact that these films are winning awards in festivals around the world means that we are doing something very right.”