Pakistani documentaries win big at SAFFM

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The South Asian Film Festival of Montreal (SAFFM) came to an end recently before heading to Saguenay, Canada, in the coming days. The one of its kind SAFFM, held in the great city of Montreal, offered an eclectic mix of thought-provoking films, set in the Indian Subcontinent and its diaspora communities across the world.

At SAFFM, three Pakistani documentaries: After Sabeen, With Bells On Her Feet and Indus Blues, won big.

German filmmaker Schokofeh Kamiz’s stirring documentary on The Second Floor (T2F) director, Sabeen Mahmud’s death, called After Sabeen, won the Director’s Choice Award for Courage in Cinema. While the film includes interviews with Sabeen’s family, friends and the Pakistani novelist Mohammad Hanif, After Sabeen also highlights the cost she paid for giving freedom of expression a place to thrive.

Meanwhile, Taimur Rahim’s With Bells On Her Feet bagged two accolades – Best Short Film and the Audience Choice Award. Based on the life of renowned dancer, theatre director and social activist, Sheema Kermani, the documentary focuses on the classical dancer’s life and fight for social justice during Zia ul Haq’s regime. “For me, there is a direct relationship between dance and liberation,” Sheema says in the documentary. “When a woman stands on stage to dance, what she’s saying is: ‘Here I am, I’m not ashamed of my body, I am confident and I do not fear you’.”

“My journey has been a lonely one but what keeps me going is a hope that future generations will embrace dance not just as an art form but a means to achieve peace, humility and beauty,” she adds.

Moreover, Jawad Sharif’s award-winning documentary film Indus Blues, which had its Italian and German premieres earlier this year, won the Jury Award for Best Feature Documentary. One of the jury members shared that “the film is visually stunning from beginning to end… it is about indigenous artisans/musicians in Pakistan who are slowly becoming extinct”.

“I am really happy that Indus Blues won this award,” Jawad Sharif told Instep. “But what I am most thrilled about is that the message of humanity and love that we have tried to convey through Indus Blues is reaching the entire world via different international platforms, showcasing Pakistan’s positive image,” he added.

Produced by the Foundation of Arts, Culture and Education (FACE), in association with Bipolar Films, Indus Blues tells the story of some of the most precious folk music treasures and the culture of Indus on the verge of disappearance. It also highlights the efforts of various Pakistani folk artists, who are striving to keep the dying folk music tradition alive.