Feb 8, 2009 - Uncategorized    20 Comments

Kara till now …

Let me admit; like every other social science/liberal arts graduate, I am guilty of being fond of Indie films and obscure foreign cinema. Well everything in Pakistan is foreign cinema because we do not really produce any films so to speak, but by foreign films, I meant European, Latin American and Far Eastern films. Foreign cinema and Indie films make me feel special on many counts; for one, after auditing a couple of courses in visual anthropology at university and my brief stint as a television producer has me convinced that I have a film maker inside me and Indie flicks give me hope that one day, I may make it as a film maker. Secondly, they make me look/sound/appear to be sophisticated/cosmopolitan citizen of the world who can appreciate cinematic gems from across the globe.

As a result, I am one of those people who throng any film festival that happen to take place in their vicinity because film festivals are the places that show case odd ball comedies, gritty documentaries and quirky short films. To feed into my desire for the odd and wonderful, I am known to have braved a cold night at the train station at Düsseldorf to go attend Berlin Film Festival in 2005, managed to go to Glasgow film festival when my master’s dissertation was due and coaxed my boss to grant me a few days off so that I can attend the Dubai film festival last year. So it is but natural that I am a Kara Film Festival veteran as it happens to take place in my very own city – Karachi.

This year, Kara took place after a year’s gap and has been a sort of let down, at least on the local front. I am mostly interested in short films and documentaries and have seen a few really good ones such as Coffee & Allah, The Quiet Man, The Lost Lovers, Small Boxes and Shanti Plus to name a few. But the Pakistani shorts and documentaries I have seen so far left a lot to be desired. With the sole exception of Kiss of Life by Wayla Kayla Productions (A production of NCA students), the others are nothing to speak about. Two bad exceptionally films stood out particularly . One was a short called ‘Paint’ by Saba Khan which was trying to link real images with paintings. The quality of production was simply appalling with shoddy camera work and poor editing. The other film was an even bigger disaster than Paint. It was titled Tumhara Zikr by Shahlalae Jamil and it looked as if someone had given a handy cam to a five year old and then grabbed the kid and started running and jumping. The result was out of focus and jarring cinematography. The camera moved so much that it actually gave me a headache. The film maker captured images of all the old ladies in her family, he maid, her dogs, some other family members, a few ladies praying with their prayer mats on beds, a dholki in the family, her dogs again, a few shrines, a couple of car rides to shrines, a man in kurta and a torn book in no particular order. To add insult to injury, she did not even bother to edit them to some coherence. The sound quality was awful with background Sufi music over riding the voice over. After the film was over, just about everyone was badmouthing the film and a few of us were wondering of it can be called film making on any count?

Initially I thought the film was made by some kid who wanted an experiment in vague film making and is related to someone influential in the film festival to get a place. I later found out that the director is a trained film maker and teaches film making at the department of Visual Studies at Karachi University (I feel really sorry for her students). What stunned me most was the audacity of the festival organizers to showcase that film but also the audacity of the film maker to actually own that headache inducing sloppy piece of film making and put her name in the biggest possible font in the end credits. Kara needs to get its act together, seriously.


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  • I’ve been going to Kara every singly day but mostly been watching the Gala screenings.

    I’m impressed actually. And actually just really glad that something like this is actually taking place in Karachi.

  • Maybe cuz I’ve been living in Bangladesh for too long (2 months), but I read Satyajit Ray instead of Satrangi Re at the bottom of the Kara poster. Is Ray popular at all among the cinema phile types in Karachi?

  • o my gawwd…

    you are so much into filmy stuff. Its hard for me to digest that all!

    Any how after reading your post I have realized that you do posses the aesthetic sense for being a film-maker…

    All the best!!

  • hey, why criticizing? let them do whatever they want.who cares?

  • Tez,

    Criticize all you want – do not care about those who criticize your criticizing!

    On to more serious stuff – Kara Festival? oh I had no clue – but then I don’t live anywhere near Karachi – however never having heard of a film festival in Pakistan I am ignorantly surprised!

    Do you know the reason behind the gap of one year for the film festival?

    Also, are some or all of the movies, that are considered worthy watching, available for peeps what live outside of Pakustan?

    Also reading “Wayla Kayla”, since it means “Idle Banana” in Punjabi, made me chuckle…


  • Indian movies ? well let me clear something here. Except few ones, most of the Indian movies are mundane. I prefer to watch foreign flicks especially from Europe. They always provide something new.

  • Zoobee,

    It is the seventh Kara film festival. We have had one every year in the month of December since 2001 and it attracts a lot of really good film makers from across the world and some really good film makers from Pakistan as well. Even this year we have had some really good films like Edge of Heaven by Fatih Akin, the golden boy of German cinema who has won Golden Bear at Berlin film festival a couple of years back and Burns Road ki Niilofur by a Pakistani director S.M.Moin.

    We have not had Kara in 2007 because of emergency and Lawyers movement. The december 2008 show also got delayed because of Mumbai Attacks and it is now happening two months late. We usually get a lot of stars from Mumbai for it but this year, except for a couple of German and Italian film makers, not many have made it to the festival but the films are here and we are enjoying them ..

  • Mania,

    I care.

    For one, when i am a paying audience, i have a right to demand quality product. Secondly, when i watch really outstanding efforts from other countries, I want the same from the film makers from my own country. Is that too much to ask?

  • Even one film festival a year keeps me going. I’m impressed with all your efforts to attend festivals in different countries. Yes, it often happens that the films from one’s own country disappoint the most. Perhaps we are more critical of those. Anyway, I’m not a big fan of the jerky handheld camera movement posing as art myself.

  • no sane person would name their kid shahlale. its got to be the pakistani substitute for allen smithee.

    which would explain a lot.

  • I love Indie and art-sy movies. Theres so much more depth to them then regular movies. We have a Cinema here called Cinema Nouveau and they play all the really cool foreign and indie films.

  • Same Pinch! I’m a crazy fan of movies and during the Dubai International Film Festival, I went there almost daily and once even managed to bunk office.

    But I think you’re right – at times, the film maker becomes so self indulgent, he pukes all his thoughts out without any meaning. And Film Festivals allow them to do just that.

    That apart, at times, there are such gems in these festivals. My only complain is that these kind of movies don’t pay editors too well. I mean, they want the scene to sink in completely and every frame is stretched years beyond its expiry date. I don’t think a film festival should be an excuse to let the editor go on holiday.

    This year, I saw two such movies – Adhen (Algeria) and Hunger (British). Both of them despite being good movies, suffered from the same problem. But that’s my take, After all, I’m just a fan – You’re the expert I guess.

  • Hallo Tazeen,

    While reading your post I thought Indie movies are those starring “Indiana Jones”. After reading the comments, I am nearly sure that “Indie” stands for “Indian” meaning the Bollywood stuff.

    But why do you say Indie instead of Indian? Is there a special meaning?

    And NCA? Probably a place where you learn how to make a decent film.

    Here in France, the only way to see a decent short film (Kurzfilm) would be in ARTE, well after 11 pm.
    And you only know afterwards if it was worthwhile.

    The last time, I saw a really good one was “Foutaises” from Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Have a look at YouTube and enjoy.


  • @ Georg haha if indie movies were indian movies then world cinema would be a singing and dancing bunch of crap 😀

    Indie or independent movies usually are a low budget film by a small studio 🙂

  • I was back home when the last Kara took place. Seems so long ago. And you were there with me and Moneeza at one of the screenings, remember? Was it the Gitmo movie that we saw together or Immaculate Conception? Zia Mohyeddin in drag, now that was an experience.

  • xill-e-ilahi,

    I though the Pakistan version of Allen Smithee would be either Qurban, Ashiq, Mashooq or Dilruba.


    Che is right. An indie film is a relatively small film made my an independent film maker and is quite the opposite of both Indian Jones films and Bollywood song and dance extravaganzas.

  • Madiha,

    We saw both the films together along with Al Gore’s ‘An Inconvenient Truth’. I think i slept a bit through Al Gore’s film.

  • @ tazeen: it would’ve been but those are probably the names of the cast…

  • Having come from a family that used to produce/direct Pakistani mainstream films in the 70’s, I have to say I am pleasantly surprised to see that there is a presence of independent cinema in Pakistan – especially in the context of how precipitous the fall in quality of mainstream Pakistan cinema has experienced.

    Is there any way a person in the States (like me) can get access to some of these films?

  • finally! i had started coming to this blog because i loved to disagree with you. unfortunately that hasn’t been happening too much of late until now.

    i agree, paint was horrible. but tumhara zikr i loved. true, most of your criticisms are valid. but here’s the thing. it was shot with what is speculated to be a 16mm camera, which really adds a gorgeous feel to things that you can’t get with conventional cameras. secondly, the narrative was circular, contradictory and often confusing. i chose not to concentrate on it, and had a much more enjoyable experience. and editing wise, from my own limited experience with such things i thought it was a pretty sophisticated effort.

    unfortunately, this is perhaps the only discussion i have managed with people other than my fiance about kara. most people just attended the useless gala screenings. those who made it to the shorts really made me want to cry once they opened thier mouths in the Q&As. really stupid fucking people we live with.

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