Time and again, a number of film festivals have been organised in Pakistan in order to promote the art of filmmaking and to celebrate Pakistani and international cinema. Among such festivals, Kara Film Festival (Karachi International Film Festival) had been very popular in which a variety of independent films including documentaries, narrative features and shorts were featured. Not only people from Pakistan entertainment industry, but celebs from international space including India, also participated in the sessions and appeared at the screenings throughout the festival. However, Kara’s annual festivities were discontinued after 2009 due to the uncertain socio-economic problems that Karachi was facing. For over 8 years the cinema has felt the absence of such an international platform until Pakistan International Film Festival (PiFF) was announced a few weeks ago. One witnessed the return of the popular event with renewed hope of bringing quality art and craft of filmmaking to the front.
PiFF is a platform for independent filmmaking, creative expression and compelling storytelling. It also supports and discovers emerging filmmakers, curates innovative and fresh ideas, and introduces new technology and trends through seminars, workshops, premieres, exhibitions, and live performances. There had been mobile screenings and seminars - one of them being about celebrating women in films on the occasion of International Women’s Day - conducted at various institutes as a part of the pre-festival activities finally leading up to the main event.
The actual event kicked off in Karachi on 29th March and concluded on 1st April, 2018, with a glamorous award ceremony. It featured prominent filmmakers from different countries including Turkey, Bangladesh, Iran, India, Italy, Germany, US, France, to name a few. PiFF also screened different categories of films ranging from documentaries, short films and feature films submitted from 93 countries across the globe. For the entire festival, a total of 210 films had been selected from the categories of documentaries, short films and feature length films which were screened over six different venues - Ziauddin University, Goethe Institute, Iqra University (Defence and Nazimabad campus), Alliance Franoise and T2F - throughout the city.
The invigorating sessions
Along with the screenings of films, stimulating panel discussions were held over the course of four days bringing pertinent discussions for the attendees. For years we have compared Indian and Pakistani movies in terms of popularity. In one of the most happening session which was regarding genres, Adnan Sarwar of ‘Shah’ fame pointed that while a story and the way it’s told is what matters regardless of its genre, Bollywood still has a major market for films which is why it is able to afford monetary risks. Renowned Indian actress and filmmaker, Nandita Das, countered it by saying that it wasn’t true for all Bollywood films. She also said that, “Good films do not necessarily have big budgets.” For quality films, it is important to have a sound plot before anything else which had been a major theme throughout the panel.
The panel discussions included: ‘Film Diplomacy and Cross Border Collaboration’, ‘Innovation on Screen: Digital Dimensions’, ‘Genre Busters’, ‘From Script to Screen and Beyond’, ‘Films for Change: Socially Motivated content in South Asian Film Industry’ and ‘The Future of Music and Lyrics: How important is music in the sub-continental cinema’. The participant line-up was diverse and included prominent local and foreign speakers; Asim Raza, Anjum Rajabali (celebrated Indian scriptwriter), Nandita Das, Sajal Aly, Adnan Sarwar, Sana Tauseef, S. Rajamouli (director of blockbuster film, ‘Baahubali’), Vinay Pathak (acclaimed Indian actor), Amin Farooqui, Zeenat Lakhani (writer of Saba Qamar starrer ‘Hindi Medium’), Saket Chaudhary (director of ‘Hindi Medium’), Nishtha Jain (maker of documentary film ‘Gulabi Gang’), Jami, Subhash Kapoor (prominent Indian producer, screenplay writer and director, known for his work in ‘Jolly LLB 1 & 2’), Vishal Bhardwaj (Indian filmmaker), Hareem Farooq, Izzat Majid, Asif Noorani, Sultan Arshad, Rekha Bhardwaj (Indian playback singer), Dr Omer Adil, Nila Madhab Panda (director of ‘Kadvi Hawa’) and Mr Shobu (producer the movie ‘Baahubali’).
Gracing the screens
Moreover, a total of eight movie premieres - ‘Cake’, ‘The Valley’, ‘Lala Begum’, ‘Moomal Rano’, ‘Zaraab’, ‘The Song of Scorpions’, ‘Kuch Bheege Alfaaz’ and ‘The Wishing Tree’ -were screened at Nueplex cinemas. People flocked to the venue in huge crowds including socialites and celebrities to show their support.
While talking to this scribe, Mahira Khan gave raving reviews to ‘Cake’ and ‘Lala Begum’, and expressed the need for such festivals to bring out quality content while also supporting indie films. “I think it’s a great initiative and this opens doors for younger filmmakers and artists because more independent films are being shown. As for us, we get a worldwide view of the cinema through such indie films.”
A night with the stars
The Pakistan International Film Festival finally concluded with a star-studded Awards Night followed by a Gala dinner. The winners were selected on the basis of ratings the nominees received from the respective jury members of each category.
In the category of Best Documentary Feature ‘The Rebel Optimist’ (Pakistan) directed by Mahera Omer won and the award was presented by Ali Rehman Khan and Kubra Khan. For Best Documentary (short) ‘Veil Done’ (India) won the award; for Best Short Film ‘Aghai Nazem’ (Iran) won for which the award was presented by Fiza Ali Meerza and Nabeel Qureshi.Whereas, Best Feature was awarded to ‘Lala Begum’, directed by Mehreen Jabbar and was presented by Mahira Khan.
The rest of the winners are as follow: Best Editor awarded to Mitesh Soni for ‘Jannan’; Best Cinematography awarded to Rana Kamran for ‘Na Maloom Afraad 2’; Best Female Debut awarded to Hania Amir for ‘Janaan’; Best Male Debut awarded to Ali Rehman Khan for ‘Janaan’; Best Writer awarded to Khalil-ur-Rehman for ‘Punjab Nahi Jaungi’; Best Director awarded to Nadeem Baig for ‘Punjab Nahi Jaungi’; and for Best Music Sahir Ali Bagga won for ‘Arth:The Destination’ which was presented by Ali Zafar and Hadiqa Kiani.
‘Punjab Nahi Jaungi’ bagged the award for Best Film for which the award was presented by S. S. Rajamouli and Meera. Whereas the award for Best Actor (Female) was won by Mehwish Hayat for ‘Actor in Law’ which was presented by Sania Saeed and Humayun Saeed; Best Actor (Male) was won by Fahad Mustafa also for ‘Actor in Law’ for which the award was presented by Indian actor Vinay Pathak and Hareem Farooq. At the ceremony, Ali Zafar was honoured with an award in the category of Artist for Peace which was presented by Sultana Siddqui and Marriyum Aurangzeb. Finally, a soulful performance from Abida Parveen was a perfect way to end the evening.