What is the worth of 60 seconds?

How much can you say in one minute? Apparently, quite a lot.

This was proved by a group of very talented young Pakistanis who participated in a delightfully innovative and completely indigenous film festival named the ‘60 Second Film Festival’, contributing films made via professional cameras as well as mobile phone cameras. Films were sent in from across the country, and as many as 200 submissions were received according to organizers, of which 24 were selected to be screened throughout Pakistan. The team has already conducted screenings in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi and plans to take the festival to smaller cities, particularly ones from where the winning films have come.

Interested “filmmakers” were given a host of categories, ranging from environment and HIV to peace, conflict (not the war kind) and democracy. Needless to say, the largest number of films that were screened fell under the topic of peace and terrorism, but a surprisingly large number of well-made films were part of the tolerance category. Although I enjoyed almost all of the films, some of which moved me to tears (because they were so good or so bad), I will go ahead and challenge myself by trying to select five of my favourite films out of the 24 that were screened in Karachi on March 10, 2013:

1. ‘Broken’ by Usama Nasir

The film, categorized under peace, opens with a young kid badgering his father, who is trying to study from a book, to get him a PSP, a helicopter and a plane. The father agrees in an effort to make the kid leave him alone, but he is not to be pacified. Eventually, the father tears apart a map of Pakistan and tells his son to tape it back together. The child comes back, holding up the repaired map and triumphantly exclaiming in all his innocence: “Maine Pakistan ko theek kar diya!” The father asks him how he managed to do that so quickly. The kid replies there was a man’s photograph at the reverse of the map, he taped it back together and the map was fixed.

What a beautiful message – fix yourself to fix the country – and presented in such a beautiful way. This was a film that got me all teary!

2. ‘Tolerance’ by Ali Raza

This film, categorized under tolerance, would remind one of many a Mobilink Jazba ads. The difference? It was short and comes with a brilliant message. We see a young boy walking out to the pitch in test match attire. The voiceover tells the audience that the problem with us Pakistanis is that we try to hit a sixer on every ball and nobody is prepared to let go of even one tricky ball which eventually bowls them out as they try to hit it across the park. “Pitch pe rehna seekho. Apne aap main sabr-o-tahammul paida karo,” the voiceover tells us at the end.

Now that’s what I call a powerful message in a small package.

3. ‘We are not terrorists’ by Sanwal Chishti

This film, categorized under peace, opens with a one-minute digital timer. The audience can hear each second ticking by, creating an uncomfortable feeling that something horrible is about to happen. A man’s eyes are shown as he suspiciously looks into the camera. The camera then zooms out, and we see a microwave oven and hear a ringing sound. The man is question pulls out his food. The end.

Hilarious! The entire hall chuckled at the end of the film, which in one minute, trashed stereotypes and goaded everyone into wondering how little time we take to judge other people.

4. ‘Think’ by Adnan Nawaz

The film, categorized under democracy, shows a box for each party. A man picks up every box and empties it out, showing the votes each party got. The last box says ‘Pakistan’, and when it is emptied out, all that comes out of it is soil.

Don’t vote for the party, vote for the country. Vote wisely, and I can think of no wiser and less-judgmental way of sending that idea across.

5. ‘Personality conflicts’ by Shahzad Rashdi

The film, categorized under conflict, shows a woman putting on perfect make-up while the Bollywood song ‘Sajna hai mujhe sajna ke liye’ plays in the background. And then, she dons on a full niqab hiding everything except for her eyes, and leaves the house.

Although I sensed a few people in the auditorium did not appreciate the humour in the film, given that religion is a holy cow in our society and all things niqabified are beyond reproach, many people laughed and clapped. I was one of them. That is a point that is to be made – these “pious” people with holier-than-thou attitudes who think nothing of pointing fingers at women who do not subscribe to their warped belief system are the actual confused ones. If you’re so religious and believe that women should not “show” their beauty, then why are you using make-up at all? Last time I checked, the purpose of make-up is to enhance the beauty of a woman. Conflicted minds, much?

I must make an honourable mention to Taha Kirmani’s ‘Diya Jalaye Rakhna‘, categorized under peace, that totally crushed my heart. I work for The Citizens Archive of Pakistan (CAP), a Karachi-based non-profit that is going to great pains to collect the oral histories of the generation of Pakistanis who saw partition first-hand. Through my work with CAP, I have met people who tell me stories of their strong faith and belief in the promise of Pakistan. Pakistan, in 1947, was truly the promised land for these young people. And this film shows just that.

So here’s wishing the 60 Second Film Festival team many, many more. I must especially mention that the team totally won my heart by using a video to accompany Pakistan’s national anthem (played before the screening) which did not focus on our army strength and on top of that, showed Pakistanis in a mosque, a church, a temple and a gurudwara. Well done, you guys! You have your hearts in the right place, and that alone will guide you to immense success.

NOTE: This post earlier stated that the film ‘Think’ did not show a box representing MQM when in fact it does. The correction has been made. 

 

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