July 9 2014
This short-doc offers highly stylised footage in slo-mo capturing Pakistani people in their day-to-day life, all set in an urban setting of Lahore, Punjab region, accompanied by poetic and inspiring narration by the Muslim rights campaigners and activists Sarah Javaid and Hammad Sadiq. We are shown scenes from the streets, daredevil motorcycle gangs, police women, dancing transgender queens and their beauty routines, juxtaposed to images of men of all ages staring at the iris of the camera. Judged or not, we as the audience, if we had even a bit of sensitivity in us, feel as if they’re looking straight at us.
The stares and the looks of random men of all ages staring directly at the camera mimic the stare anyone would get if their looks diverged from the norm. That is, if you’re considering the ‘old times’, in which the appearance of something different signified a threat to the old hierarchies and all the finely arranged systems that come with it (warning, contains traces of sarcasm). That kind of a stare symbolizes a certain power position, as those who stare state their dominance.
Considering the vibrant diversity of Pakistan, which covers app. 18 languages and several varied religions, one would think that being different is the norm. However, the existence of child marriages for girls and literacy figures divided by gender suggest that we’re witnessing a co-existence of hierarchies and that gender norms supersede almost all other norms. Once again, it all boils down to the good old gender divide.
However, let’s not jump to conclusions just yet, as the video tries to tell us a different story. We are told about a silent conversation conducted by our sub-consciousness by the very choice of our clothes. Strategically chosen policewomen in uniform pinpoint the very essence of what the video aims at; the times are changing, women are attaining positions of authority and there’s (hopefully) more of that to come. The video wants us to administer change, pay attention and look with love. It is in fact, that easy.
If there was a lesson to learn in this video, it would be that the expectations people tend to bestow upon us, needn’t be followed blindly. It’s healthy and necessary to disrupt those, as otherwise there would be no change. In an interview given for Dazed Magazine, the director of this video, William Williamson states:
“…The main motivation was the opportunity to make something in Pakistan. I felt like it was a chance to break away from the usual media stereotypes that portray the country as being in a state in crisis…”.
With that we must agree, highlighting stories of horror and terror from Pakistan doesn’t help its oppressed people to gain agency by being victims. It is important that strong characters are seen opposing the inflexible traditional and trailblazing to the newer and better future.
However, with a risk to come off as someone who doesn’t appreciate this video (though I really do), I wish the times were changing more rapidly, as I really would have wished to file this video as if it was really made in Pakistan by the Pakistani crew, instead of the London-based director, whose work is amazing nevertheless. It would have been even better if it was made by a Pakistani female director, but it seems that we’re still awaiting the time for her story to be told. I literally, can’t wait.
More information about the film can be found here.
The Silent Conversation
DAZED presents a film by William Williamson
Based on the words of: Sarah Javaid and Hammad Sadiq
Music: Nicolas Jaar ‘Variations’ & ‘Our World’ // ‘The Wherewithal’ by Sam Shalabi and ‘Timadrit In Sahara’ by Tinariwen.
Voiced By . Rafia Asim// Daughter . Samar Sohail// Policewomen.// Saba Naureen// Sidra Saleem// Eunuchs.// Nayab // Gudiya // Ayesha// Yasmin// Kajal Mitra// Nirmal// Chandni// Cam Dept.// Imran Mukhtar // Rashid // Masood Fareed // Sound Engineer . Shehzad. // Pro. Assistant Mohammed Azeem // Colourist . Lewis Crossfield // DOP . Will Hanke // Editor . Adam Tyler // Co-Exec producer . Adam Booth // Co- Producer . Jo Jo Ellison // Service Producer . Aliza Ruhai // Commissioned by . Kendall Robbins for the British Council // Executive Producer . Jennifer Byrne // Produced & Directed by . William Williamson // Special Thanks.// James Drew // The Electric Collective // Keaton Henson // Tom Gallon // Em Mathews // Asma Shah // Wolf Studios / Flow Mastering // Steve Jamison // Mike Brett
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