Made in Pakistan is a 60-minute documentary that follows the lives of four young, middle-class Pakistanis during Musharraf’s state of emergency in 2007 – Waleed Khalid, a lawyer, Rabia Aamir, a journalist and a working mother, Mohsin Waraich, an aspiring politician, and Tara Mehmood, an event & PR manager. The film is an attempt to break the oft-negative depictions of Pakistan in the news media by re-examining the country through the eyes of these four citizens. Made in Pakistan premieres in Karachi next week on July 31, followed by screenings in Islamabad, and Lahore [click on the city to get more information on the showings], making the film the first documentary to be nationally released in Pakistan. Below, CHUP talks to the film’s director, Nasir Khan:
Q: What inspired you to make the film, Made in Pakistan?
Whenever I saw any coverage of Pakistan on foreign news channels, it felt like an extremely myopic and stereotypical representation of our people. The Pakistan they repeatedly covered was only showing a part of the story. Pakistan and Pakistanis were often labeled as dangerous pariahs who should be secluded from the world stage as we know it. As Pakistani filmmakers, we felt that their conclusions were amateur and racist. We felt we could easily negate them even if we showed a glimpse of Pakistan through the eyes of Pakistanis. Thus began the journey for making Made in Pakistan.
Q: The documentary follows the lives of four Pakistanis who are meant to show the multifaceted nature of the country. How did you go about “casting”/finding these people for the film? What surprised you the most when following their lives?
We were extremely lucky that we were able to find people from such diverse backgrounds who had very distinct personalities. Most of them were friends of friends and the great thing was that all of them agreed to be part of the production without hesitation. There were many surprising elements during filming: following Mohsin’s [the aspiring politician] campaign and seeing how aware and resolute the voters are even though they are coming out of low-income populations. The fallacy that people don’t know their rights and just vote blindly was absolutely dispelled. Then following the lawyers’ movement and seeing the passionate atmosphere – people are hit yet the spirit didn’t waver. But the most reassuring aspect was visiting schools and colleges and seeing the high level of patriotism these young kids have for Pakistan.
Q: The film will be screened in Pakistan’s three main cities – Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. Are there plans to release the film elsewhere in Pakistan and internationally? What do you hope Pakistanis who watch Made in Pakistan take away from the film? Do you think international viewers may take away something different?
Plans are on for a worldwide release – we have been getting a lot of interest from audiences and InshAllah we will be hitting the major cities soon. I think it feels good to see a Pakistani story, it feels good to see a representation of yourself so I think that hint of pride that one gets while seeing something homegrown is what Pakistani audiences should take in at a very basic level. As for the response we have gotten from focus groups done abroad, the response has been incredible. On one hand, audiences are surprised that people in Pakistan can speak such good English and on the other, they are connecting the most to the bearded Muslim (Waleed the lawyer), whom they are supposed to hate based on popular perceptions.
Q: The documentary was filmed during Pakistan’s state of emergency under Musharraf in 2007. However, so much has happened in the past two years – from democratic elections to an increasingly tumultuous security situation to a burgeoning economic crisis. What do you feel is constant and universal in your film that makes it relevant not just today, but in the future?
I think it reflects the spirit of the people and that is something that remains resolute and relevant. What we have tried to show is that Pakistani people are aware of the situation they find themselves in; they are able to make decisions for their future and that this future brings with it a promise of hope. The message of the documentary is loud and clear “Pakistan Zindabad” [Long live Pakistan].
Q: Your film company – Talking Filmain – run by you, Adil Sher and Rizwan Saeed – has a very diverse portfolio of projects under its belt. Do you hope to tackle other politically and socially conscious projects in the future?
InshAllah we do hope to work on more inspiring stories and subjects but first we need to get Made in Pakistan out of our system as this is the first documentary to garner a national release in the history of Pakistan. The encouragement we are receiving will guide us to continue of this journey of telling Pakistani stories.