The first day of the conference was dedicated to screening four long films on a diverse range of topics and communities, followed by nine short films made by students from different universities in Pakistan.
A catchy song by Fuzon titled Mein Karachi played in the background, as the audience, which comprised Karachiites of all age groups, settled into their seats. The event kicked off with an introduction given by Mr. Arif Hasan and Dr. Kaleemullah Lashari about the films to be shown during the session. Mr. Hasan spoke about the crucial role played by films in raising awareness in a city that is extremely divided, while Dr. Lashari pointed out that the purpose of showing these films was to give the people of Karachi a thought-provoking jolt about what is wrong with our social fabric.
Lyari: Highway of Tears
Fionn Skiotis for United Nations Human Settlements Programme
This film is based on the evictions that took place in 2006 in order to build an expressway along the banks of the river of Lyari. These evictions took place in well-settled communities, and affected about 24,000 families who were not compensated fairly for their lost land and belongings. The three Settlement Towns (Baldia, Taiser and Hawksbay) that were built to compensate the families were not only grossly inadequate, but had problems of their own, such as sanitation and sewerage. The film depicts the conflicting viewpoints of the authorities and the civil society, and raises questions about the dislocation of the residents of Lyari, who suffered many losses due to an “ignorant and arrogant decision” on part of the authorities.
Th e Hindu Mosaic of Tharparkar
Hasan Ali Khan/Maheen Zia for ‘Thardeep Rural Development Programme’
This film illustrates the unique identity of the Hindu community in Tharparkar (Sindh), and introduces some of the basic beliefs of Hinduism. A fascinating point made in the film is that the original name of Hinduism was Sanatam Dharam, because no one is aware of the precise date of its inception. The film revolves around one main theme: the annual pilgrimage to Baluchistan by Hindus from all over Pakistan. This pilgrimage is termed as Hinglaj, and is central to the beliefs of the Tharparkar Hindus. It is fascinating to observe the way the Hindu community had syncretized Islam and Hinduism by making connections between the beliefs of the two religions, such as the resurgence of Nishkalank Avatar to Imam Mehdi’s resurrection.
The Mystery of the Persian Mummy
A research project of Dr. Asma Ibrahim, documented by BBC Horizon & Discovery Channel
This film tells an intriguing story of a mummy found in Baluchistan, which was believed to be 2,500 years old. The inscriptions made on the casing, which were in an obscure script, read: “I am Daughter Rudumna of King Xerxes”, suggesting that the body belonged to a Persian princess. After conducting several X-rays and a CT scan, it became clear that the body inside had been hollowed of all its organs and mummified in the same procedure that the Ancient Egyptians used to carry out. However, the carbon readings of the bandaging revealed a different, more skeptical story. Directed much like a thriller, the film kept the entire audience on the edge of their seats, but later revealed that the mummy was indeed a fake recreation of a Persian mummy.
Tazia Makers of Kharadar: Exploring Their Passion and Devotion
This is a colorful documentary on the art of making Tazia for the month of Muharram. The central theme of this film is to affirm that the purpose of making Tazia was not to worship Ali or Hussain; instead, it was purely out of love and devotion felt towards Allah. The documentary shows how Kharadar was an extremely important place for the Shia community of Karachi, and the art of making Tazia was considered as an esteemed profession passed down by lineage.
The programme concluded with a panel discussion between the filmmakers on the progress of the communities that had been featured in the films, followed by a question-answer session with the audience. Among the key factors that the audience took away from all the films was the rich, diverse culture that is found not just in the city of Karachi, but in Pakistan as a whole.
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