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Saturday, February 9, 2013

Short film about Zia regime earns recognition in India

Assad Zulfiqar’s short film bagged an award at the International Film Festival in Jaipur. DESIGN: ANUSHAY FURQAN
Assad Zulfiqar Khan’s short film, Haal, earned the title of Best Upcoming Star Film at the Jaipur International Film Festival (JIFF) in India earlier this week.
The London-based film-maker, who has directed and co-written the film, portrayed how former president General (retd) Muhammad Ziaul Haq’s ruling era affected the country and how the Islamisation he imposed continues to trickle down in society today.
Haal was my graduation project at the London Film School,” says Khan, who was humbled by the success of his film. “I was greatly influenced by the political struggle against Zia in the ‘80s so I felt it was important to catalog that on screen; for me, this film was a form of catharsis.”
Haal shows the story from the standpoint of a kathak dancer — played by classical dancer Nighat Chaudhry — and a journalist; it explores how Zia’s rule affected liberal arts and media.
“I filmed it in Lahore right after the assassination of Shaheed Salmaan Taseer and that added meaning to the production as his murder was a shocking reminder of how Zia’s Pakistan is still alive and flourishing,” he adds regretfully.
He feels the reality of militancy depicted in the film, which is prevalent in Pakistan today, and the politics that have been revealed simultaneously, is what allows the audience to relate. “I think that is what resonated most with the viewers — these issues are parallel with our situation today,” says Khan, adding that militancy is a sad reality of our lives. “The catalyst for this virulent Islamism, if I may use that term, was Zia and his era. And since the film speaks about this, I feel that works for the audience.”
The 22-minute short film, which released in 2012, has been played in numerous film festivals internationally before making its way to JIFF. It was screened at The Second Floor café (T2F) in Karachi in July last year.
Asad Zulfiqar Khan
Indie films in Pakistan
Speaking about film-making in Pakistan, Khan emphasises that film-makers shouldn’t limit their abilities and should always try to improve. “Film-makers shouldn’t limit themselves to a Pakistani audience. It’s important to remember that the whole world is an audience,” he says. “Pakistani directors can find a way to speak to them also and shouldn’t just assume that audiences in Pakistan are the end of the market.”
In an attempt to support independent film-makers, Khan has started his own production company, Mono No Aware Productions, with film-maker Junaid Malik. “I want to remind film-makers that films that do well internationally are those that are honest,” Khan continues. “As a film-maker, you should make films which mean a lot to you — they tend to work a lot more than other film-making formulas.” He feels the success of Haal would prove to be a launching pad for indie film-makers in the future.
Working on feature films is part of Khan’s future agenda and, currently, he is working on one as an associate producer, which is being filmed in Britain. “I am also writing a couple of scripts and, hopefully, if I am done soon, I will start filming my own feature film by the end of the year,” he says.

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