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.