CHUP recently had the opportunity to interview Mehreen Jabbar, a Pakistani filmmaker whose film, Ramachand Pakistani, was recently selected for the Tribeca Film Festival and will be screened for six days, from April 28, 2008 to May 3, 2008 [for information on theaters and purchasing tickets, click here.] The film, based on a true story, explores what transpires when a Pakistani Hindu boy and his father accidentally cross the border into India at a time of extreme tension between the two countries. They were subsequently held in an overcrowded Indian jail for five years. The Tribeca Film Festival website wrote, “In her first feature film, Mehreen Jabbar lays out the political contexts of Ramchand’s situation with exceptional fluidity.” For her thoughts on the film and the overarching Pakistani film industry, please read below [Image from her website]:
Q: Congratulations on your film, Ramachand Pakistani, being selected for the Tribeca Film Festival. What inspired and motivated you to tackle a film with such serious political undertones? Is there a message you were attempting to send with the movie?
A: The story was first given to me by my father, Javed Jabbar who had met the father and son on whom the film is based in the Tharparkar desert where he has worked on a volunteer basis for the last 2 decades. The story apart from having political, religious overtones was inherently the story of a family that is separated and the experience of that seperation on the young boy and his mother.
Q: The Pakistani film industry has long been overshadowed by movies produced by Bollywood. However, recently, several feature-length films on poignant topics have received tremendous media attention in Pakistan and internationally, such as Khuda Kay Liye and of course, Ramachand Pakistani. Do you think the more topical and serious issues discussed by these films will help set a standard for the future of the Pakistani film industry?
A: I think Pakistan needs all kinds of films. It needs a thorough revival of the film industry which means that all genres and themes should be welcome. What it would need is a constant release of films, not just one in a year or one in two years because that will not do much for the local industry. The one good sign is that cinemas are now doing good business again and people are starting to come out and watch films on the big screen again. That is a very important development and should be sustained.
Q; CHUP recently covered the wide commercial release of Khuda Kay Liye in India – a development that essentially ended the film ban between the two countries, and discussed the idea of film diplomacy, that is, the use of film, theater and art to broker and repair ties between contentious nations. Do you feel that film can act as a medium to help bridge differences and reconcile conflicts?
A: Of course it can. Film or for that matter, any form of art or cultural exchange gives an insight about that particular society and the experience of art can be shared universally and bring people together. Ignorance always breeds suspicion and hatred.
Q: Much of your past work has touched on the plight of Pakistani women and their daily experiences. As a Pakistani female filmmaker, have you encountered many challenges in pursuing your career and achieving success?
A: I have been very lucky in that I haven’t encountered any major problems being a woman filmmaker in Pakistan. I think the issues i’ve faced in the industry have been one that have been faced by all filmmakers. Those range from lack of technical infrastructure, the tendency of TV channels to promote only one kind of programming, various forms of censorship, both overt and covert, etc. I think with time and if this industry is allowed to flourish, it will hopefully become more sophisticated and dynamic.
Below is the trailer for the film, [it will be screened in Urdu, but with English subtitles]: