Pakistan Rocks at the DCSAFF 2018

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Pakistani films managed to bag several noteworthy acclamations at the DC South Asian Film Fest 2018, held earlier this month.

Hosted by DC South Asian Arts Council Inc, a non-profit organisation, the DCSAFF (Washington DC South Asian Film Festival) is an important screen event that celebrates alternative, independent cinema from South Asia — India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka — and the Diaspora. 

The festival takes place once a year in the US capital and provides filmmakers, actors and industry professionals a great platform to showcase their work, which is more often than not, competing with mainstream cinema; films with big budgets and fun item songs! DCSAFF provides an ideal presentation ground.

Producers Zakir Thaver and Omar Vandal at  University speaking of their film ‘Salam’

This year Pakistan came to DCSAFF in a big way. The films showcased were: 

What Will People Say — a film by Iram Haq, described as a ‘heartbreaking female personal drama with culture clashes between two different worlds.’

Some Lover to Some Beloved – a film by Umair Riaz, featuring Zia Mohyededdin. 

Grandpa and I – a film by Ali Sohail Jaura starring Qavi Khan and Saboor Ali. 

A beautiful documentary called The Unknown Mountaineers – a film by Shehrbano Saiyid, featuring the female mountain climbers of Shimshaal village in Hunza. 

My Pure Land – a film by Sarmad Masud, featuring Suhaee Abro. 

Kachrachi – a film by Ali Mehdi, featuring Nazar ul Hasan.

Salam – produced by Omar Vandal and Zakir Thaver, and directed by Anand Kamalakar, that revealed the extraordinary life of the charismatic, Nobel prize winning Pakistani physicist, Abdus Salam.

It was a wonderful feeling to see that Pakistani films bagged a number of awards at the 7th DCSAFF this year: 

Iram Haq’s What Will People Say won Best Feature Film.

Director Anand Kamalakar’s Salam produced by Zakir Thaver and Omar Vandal bagged the Best Documentary (Audience Poll) award. 

Best Documentary (Jury Mention) was won by Girls are Not Brides  while, Best Documentary went to The Unknown Mountaineers  

Amena H. Saiyid, endearingly known as Munni Bibi, a distinguished journalist in Washington DC and Shehrbano’s cousin highly recommends The Unknown Mountaineers. The jist of her review states: ‘It is a story that is both personal and poignant about the young women of Shimshal in northern Pakistan who aspire to climb the mountains like their brothers and fathers and cousins and husbands … It is about young women who balance their daily chores of harvesting, with their dreams to climb.  It is about Sheherbano herself who dreamed of climbing and was able to share that dream with these six women.’ 

The documentary Salam has also received much praise and accolades from mainstream celebrities. ‘A vital piece of our history. I highly recommend this wonderful documentary,’ said Mahershala Ali, the Oscar-winning actor of Moonlight fame. ‘A film on him is very timely. His story of brilliance needs to be told and amplified,’ said Pakistan’s bravest girl, Malala Yousafzai, now a Nobel Laureate. The documentary Salam’s  introductory note is also most endearing: It is the story of a man who traversed two worlds with ease: one of science and religion, modernity and tradition, war and peace and obscurity and celebrity. This film is a must-watch for all intelligent Pakistanis everywhere. 

The feedback HELLO! got from some of the Pakistani directors and producers who attended DCSAFF was very positive — they felt that this was an environment where artists can exchange ideas and interact with a truly diverse audience. The three-day screenings and post-screening discussions, were a very useful way for filmmakers to glean the interest in their film and also see how a deeper awareness of Pakistani cinema, and the country itself, was built within the multicultural audience at DCSAFF.

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