In the polarized world of today, mediums such film, art and dialogue hold the power to build empathy and help us connect with individuals on a deeper level. This is precisely what the Aks International Minorities Festival set out to achieve in the three major cities of Pakistan: Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad.
After holding a variety of events in Lahore and Islamabad, the festival came to Karachi from the 6th to the 10th of April, 2017. It was hosted by T2F (The Second Floor), the literary hub of the city. This year’s festival showcased 27 feature and short length films and documentaries that addressed the issues of minorities and marginalized communities. With feminist and transgender rights movements, gender diversity, Black Lives Matter, religious crusades and activism taking center stage through film, photography and performance art, each aspect of the festival left the audience amazed at the strength shown by minorities, who were engaged in the modes of storytelling and at times enraged at the injustices they were subjected to.
The festival brought together inspiring individuals from around the world who are united in their quest to give meaning to the lives of minorities and evoke action through art. Moreover, it provided the public with an opportunity to view their work, learn about their creative process and experience in the field, and personally engage in discussion with the artists involved. Art serves as an inspirational tool, but learning about the journey behind it and all that went into its creation is a different experience altogether.
The importance of dialogue cannot be stressed enough, especially regarding pertinent issues such as the rights of minorities, and the fruitful discussions that took place at the festival were proof of the strong sentiments held by people regarding this topic. The dialogue sessions in Karachi tackled a variety of contemporary issues. Thursday’s discussion, titled ‘Court Eunuchs, Faqirs, Transwomen – a look at the Khawaja Sara community throughout history’ was particularly interesting, as it included Leyla Jagiella and local experts from the city on its panel, and attempted to debunk various myths and create clarity among the general public regarding the topic.
The feature films screened in Karachi were beautiful in their narration, powerful as a medium of storytelling, and yet painful to watch due to their heartrending content. 7 Days in Syria, directed by Robert Rippberger, offers an insight into the lives of those living at the forefront of the Syrian conflict. Reading about the atrocities is one thing, but the power of film truly captured the emotions of the audience and left everyone stunned. Bacha Posh was another powerful film that depicted the Afghani tradition of dressing a daughter as a boy if there is no son in the family, a tradition that is prevalent even today. The stories of the four Bacha Posh girls, and their struggle to maintain an identity in a world that worked hard to take it away from them, really left the crowd speechless.
The Aks International Minorities Festival is a platform that truly deserves appreciation for highlighting the issues faced by minorities to a mass audience in a manner that leaves an impact. Even the initiation of dialogue in a country such as Pakistan is a major step towards positive change for our minorities, and hats off to the entire team at Aks for making this possible!
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