Formed in 2008, the Vasakh Documentary Film Festival is an initiative of Interactive Resource Centre (IRC), an info media organization based in Lahore. Vasakh was established with the objective of sensitizing the youth by focusing on issues of human rights, equal citizenship, gender equality and religious tolerance through the medium of short documentary films. Vasakh stands out from other festivals by not only providing a multicultural platform for aspiring filmmakers to showcase their work, but also giving them an opportunity to learn from and interact with fellow filmmakers from various parts of the world. This year, Ali Auditorium witnessed the tenth edition of this two-day festival in all its glory, where around 15 short documentary films were screened from Pakistan, India, Myanmar and the US. The event was put together by IRC and Maati TV (Pakistan’s first web-based interactive video website) in collaboration with the U.S. Embassy and the National Endowment for Democracy.
The festival was very well organized, and unlike most events in the country, began and ended on time. Although the hall was considerably full on the first day, unfortunately not a lot of people showed up on the second day to appreciate the aspiring filmmakers and their work. Most documentaries were followed by a five-minute break where the filmmakers would take the stage and answer any questions that the audience had regarding their work.
The first day showcased 6 documentary films that included ‘100 Second Chances’, ‘My Leg’, ‘Whirling in the Dark’, ‘Saphoy Didar Ali’, and ‘Me, Chabbar and Abu Chacha’. The last film of the day, ‘Nusrat Ara: Fakhar-e-Mardan’ by the IRC team was particularly memorable, as it depicted the struggles of Nusrat Ara, who dedicated her life to fight for the rights of women in traditional Pakhtun culture, despite hardships and constant threats to her life.
The 13 minute long documentary, ‘The Last of Wakhi Shepherdess’ by Zeeo Zia was the highlight of the second day. The film revolves around a courageous woman from Gojal, Hunza, who decided to leave the comfort of her home and her village to live in the pasture with her livestock in an attempt to revive the centuries-old tradition of shepherding, which has been in decline for several years. Even today, she is one of the last shepherdesses in the area, because the conditions in the pastures have become too harsh, with temperatures reaching almost -30 degrees Celsius. The film had a soothing pace and a dreamlike musical score, making it a delight to watch. Upon being asked about the inspiration behind this film, Zeeo Zia told the audience that he himself belongs to Hunza, and has personally visited the pastures. The woman’s resilience immediately struck him, and he decided to pay tribute to this courageous shepherdess.
The second day concluded with the screening of ‘Major Gulfam Shaheed’, a heartrending tale of a Shi’a soldier from Parachinar who lost his wife while fighting extremist groups in Pakistan. Other notable documentaries on day 2 included ‘Sankrail Suberstars’, ‘Akash’, ‘Playground’, ‘A Tribute to Aitzaz Hassan’, ‘Teesra Pahar’ and ‘Parsis in Lahore’.
Festival Director Risham Waseem told the audience that “We hope to use Vasakh as a platform for civic education and dialogue for the youth and community members”. The content of the films screened during the two-day festival was closely linked to this goal. Here’s hoping that more and more people join and support the teams at IRC and Maati TV, to help them disseminate the “Narratives That Can Make a Difference” in the years to come.
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