Feature Documentary Indus Blues Wins Two Major Awards at Jaipur International Film Festival

Source: JIFF

My team’s feature documentary Indus Blues has won arguably its biggest honor yet. The film won “Best Documentary Feature” and “Best Cinematography Award” at the 11th Jaipur International Film Festival earlier this January. The film was screened in the festival on the evening of January 21 at Golcha Cinema in Jaipur, Rajasthan.

The screening of the film was particularly important because of the rich cultural ties of the Merwari musical tradition across the border of India and Pakistan, which the film celebrates in its unique manner. Even though unfortunately none of us could attend the festival but we strongly believed that it would strike a chord with the audience of the festival.

Other than the Best Documentary Feature Award, the film also managed to make a mark in the cinematography category. Usually, documentaries are not really noticed for their cinematography but the brilliant work in this film by Director of Photography Asmat Bashir has turned each frame into a work of art. And of course, the imagery of the film would be incomplete without the aerial cinematography by Muhammad Qadeer.

Source: Bipolar Films/Indus Blues

It was the moment the entire Indus Blues team was anticipating. When the awards for the 11th edition of the festival were finally announced, we knew that it was a big deal. We had won a few other awards as well, but this one was really special not only because it was coming from a great regional festival but especially because it came from across the border. This is truly a recognition of the difference the film has made to independent cinema in Pakistan.

Indus Blues is a 76-minute documentary that narrates the state and plight of the folk musicians and craftsmen of cultures across the Indus in their own voice. Shot in all major geographical and ethnic regions of Pakistan, the film covers 9 musical instruments with an ensemble of both folk musicians and craftsmen. The film is different in the sense that it also features musical craftsmen, a community that has been hardly ever covered by news media, let alone by documentary filmmakers. The film makes you realize that we are about to lose a cultural treasure by showcasing some of its memorable performances featuring fol

Source: Jawad Sharif

I am very glad that the film has received a very positive response and that people appear to have an appetite to enjoy a film about folk music. I strongly believe that the film even has commercial distribution potential but it is unfortunate that film producers in Pakistan usually do not have that kind of leaning. I only hope that Indus Blues finds an avenue where it is able to make a greater impact and becomes reachable to more and more people around the world.

I would like to thank Director and Producer Jawad Sharif and Creative Producer Arieb Azhar, without whose vision the film would not be possible, for giving me the opportunity to contribute to this project. I, along with the entire team, sincerely hope that the project goes a long way in promoting awareness about the folk musicians and craftsmen across Pakistan.

The Pakistan premiere of the film is expected very soon too.

 

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Indus Blues is finally here

The film that I had worked almost all year now with filmmaker Jawad Sharif has been finally completed. Now, the release of the film is upon us. And tomorrow will see the first public look at the trailer of Indus Blues, which will give us a broader and better idea of how the public will react to the film.

Indus Blues was the idea of director and producer Jawad Sharif, whose approach to documentary filmmaking is truly refreshing among independent filmmakers in Pakistan. The project has been at least three years in the making. I am proud to have been a part of the team and particularly for collaborating with Arieb Azhar, someone who I truly look up to in terms of their contribution to art and culture in Pakistan, apart from being a big fan.

The film features 9 folk musical instruments from various cultures all across Pakistan and features some of the last remaining maestros playing these instruments. These include the likes of Sachu Khan, Faqeer Zulfikar, Mumtaz Ali Sabzal, Zohaib Hassan, and Ejaz Sarhadi among others. The film is different because it not only features musicians but also the craftsmen.

Source: indusbluesfilm.com

We are very proud that the film has already been nominated for two documentary feature awards at two international film festivals. However, more important than such recognition is spreading the word about the struggle of survival of these indigenous musicians and craftsmen. The film is the production of Foundation of Arts, Culture and Education (FACE) and Bipolar Films.

My personal comment on the film is that it is important because it reminds Pakistanis to appreciate the indigenous humanism in the cultures of the Indus, as well as the remarkable cultural, linguistic, ethnic, and religious diversity in Pakistan that is often ignored. Indus Blues also captures some of the most memorable performances of folk artists such as Sachu Khan who is in the twilight of his career and battling heart disease.

Please follow Indus Blues on its social media accounts on facebook, instagram, and twitter. Check out its official website at:

http://www.indusbluesfilm.com

And also, watch out for the official trailer release on Monday, October 1, 2018 at 2000 HRS.

Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and So Many Others

Source: NBC/ABC

What the Harvey Weinstein episode has revealed is that somewhere all men are complicit and are capable of such acts. They are guilty of perpetuating a culture of harassment, which has essentially become a lifestyle of their sexual, egoistic and social inadequacies, or something far worse.

Or perhaps it is just that women, perhaps with more empowered voice than ever since isolated matriarchal cultures, are waking up to challenge the traditional way men have always approached them. By harassing them as predators. And if does not make you guilty to be a straight male, don’t know what will.

In the United States, the discourse over abuse often gets deflected by politics. A lot of shots have been fired between liberals and conservatives about their own respective hypocrisies, considering that Donald Trump is President despite the Billy Bush tape. However, both are guilty of their fair share of cherrypicking either way.

Alright, they thought that Bill Cosby was a special kind of perve, but why was the media more traumatized about Harvey Weinstein than it was about Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes or other Fox News garbage? Because Harvey Weinstein was supposed to be one of us liberals? Because someone like him should not be capable of such things and not surprising that sexists at Fox News could be.

Easily the most cringeworthy of the developments since the Weinstein revelations has been the Quentin Tarantino interview in which he reflects that he probably knew enough to do more than what he did. Which was pretty much nothing. But then again, what do you expect? Tarantino owed his entire career to him.

That is precisely what happened. Women are absolutely right to make this point. For far too long, the voices of women have been overlooked and ignored.

I personally believe that boycotting the “art” or  “body of work” (if you can call it that, that is) if a film director or artist because of his character or misdeeds does not make sense. I am not saying that it is necessarily ridiculous because I respect people for the reasons they take that stance, but the rape and gore in Tarantino and Weinstein films also make you wonder about this episode and how they see the world. Of course, it is easy to take the moral high ground.

Recall the time when Harvey Weinstein was in Howard Stern’s studio three odd years ago in which he vowed never to make a film glorifying guns again being a passionate supporter of the Democratic Party. But of course, he didn’t “stop making films glorifying guns,” if that is even a thing… However, his situation now is a good lesson how filmmakers of all the people should stop making such ridiculous statements and especially a man of Harvey Weinstein’s morals. It only puts their fellow filmmakers in trouble.

With all the problems around the alleged characters of Woody Allen and Roman Polanski, I still think they are filmmaking geniuses and I am not going to stop watching their films.

You cannot say that as a straight male, you cannot help but feel guilty of all these developments. Because perhaps we know deep inside that within us that complicity lies that allowed Weinstein’s crimes to be covered up all these years.  Let it be conservatives on Trump or liberals on Weinstein, don’t forget how complicity is an issue. Furthermore, it is important to see how the divide between men and women go beyond industries, cultures, countries, race, and religion.

This is perhaps one divide which is going to be terribly hard to bridge.

Why You Should Never Stop Watching Films

Source: Universal Pictures/Working Title Films/Mike Zoss Productions

In this past year, I have kept myself busy with a lot of work after a shattering episode of depression just about this time of the year last year. But while you are at work every day, especially in full employment where you leave your place to spend time in an office, you tend to lose perspective. You tend to forget about your mental growth, about your physical well being, and even your perspective about the bigger picture. About life.

While there are things that you are never going to fix, or can fix, which are lost with time. Second by second. There is no turning back from there. You could at least get your focus right. You could at least slap your face and wake yourself up from the slumber and start paying attention to the things that matter. Now there are plenty, not just limited to human relations. But one of them is your appreciation of art, literature, and cinema.

And especially when you are put off by the sort of films that are coming out. So while I cannot believe that audiences have rejected “Hail Caeser! (2016)” of the ever-magnificent Coen Brothers and rather watched X:Men Apocalypse and Deadpool, it only increases my appreciation for things that I admire. It tells you that cinema is still alive.

Haha, there was a time when I said to my friend Faheem Zafar who had introduced me to such great cinema that I was afraid one day we would run out of films to watch. He laughed off my comment and rightly so as I hardly watch a film anymore until in the recent days. But it is true in a way because I am pretty much out of anymore Bunuel or Fellini films to watch. That is all what matters.

Now these works of art (if you can call them that) inspired you to be a filmmaker when you were young. When you grow up and enter the industry one way or another, you wonder if you are really all that into it. Even if you don’t want to, or cannot, do anything else.  And you wonder if you can really keep up.

But what we forget at those times is that it is telling your personal expression which was once the dearest to us. We are here because we wanted to tell our -stories, even when we are not able to. Because we are telling stories in some form. Even if it is someone else’s story.

So when you are putting on thick armor around your skin to survive, it is important not to forget to live the way you did when those moments of inspiration struck you. Those moments of inspiration that set your sail this way.

It is very important that you should not stop watching films. Or even reading books.

The One Role I Would Have Loved Robin Williams to Play

Source: grio.com

Source: grio.com

I could not possibly have been more devastated to hear any news from Hollywood than the death of Robin Williams.

I always anticipated this day with dread and anxiety. But I never imagined it would be upon us this soon. This soon.

August 10, 2014.

Heartbreak.

Well now that he’s dead, I can’t meet him. Lucky folks like Michael Dare have, but he’s a star himself. To me, at least. Oh well, there goes one more item off my bucket list.

But I hope he would be in great peace, if only oblivion and non existence, unlike the predicament as in What Dreams May Come. I just watched that film right after his death and you can’t begin to imagine how ironically overwhelming that was. I guess you can.

But what I greatly respect him for is that he committed suicide. An intellectual act that I have great respect and sympathy for. Even though it may not have been planned in this case. Even though it is largely maligned and even Robin’s case was encountered with malicious and insensitive comments.

And for those who say that suicide is selfish, so be it. Selfish is not necessarily bad or evil. Everybody is selfish. Love is selfish.

But speaking of suicide, for years, I have been longing to see him in one role. A role that personally fascinates me like very few others.

The role of Do. The role of Marshall Applewhite, the founder of the Heaven’s Gate Cult.

A shocking piece of news that hit the world in March 1997, right at the time when the spectacular Hale-Bopp comet was kissing our South Western skies.

OK, now, I am not pretending that I am a filmmaker, though I write scripts, but let’s assume for a minute that I am. Or perhaps even a financier, or just somebody who is working chores for the production company. But somebody involved in the production.

Now I would have loved to be a part of the production in some way.

I would have at least loved to watch that film. But that opportunity is lost forever.

So many losses to mourn.

I believe suicides are largely misunderstood, but Marshall Applewhite’s was a special one. His cult adds just so much more mystery to it, which makes for a great story that the world needs to know. No matter how distant and detached its portrayal may be.

I bet a lot of kids born in the new millenium haven’t even heard of it.

I know a lot of you would call, or at least consider, me a dick for putting Marshall Applewhite in for what looks more or less like a eulogy post for Robin Williams. But I am actually so overwhelmed by this that this is all what I can sincerely write about.

I used to watch Applewhite’s or Do’s video for hours. And there is something about his eyes that mesmerized you. And just like everyone who likes to tell stories, I thought. Hey, this would make a great movie.

The next logical question was who could actually play Applewhite.

Well, who better than Robin Williams. The man who can play anyone and anything.

He actually would have been my first choice to play Peter Sellers in The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, and it is said that he was considered. But given the physical likeness, probably we were better off with Geoffrey Rush playing him. Another very talented actor.

Source: morthings.com/news.com

Source: morthings.com/news.com

But long story short, Robin Williams is just perfect to play him.

Considering how most people consider Applewhite a fanatic, no, this is not meant to be a satire or a comedy. It is supposed to be a biopic drama. And if you think Applewhite’s life was funny, well good luck.

Where is the compassion?

But I am not ashamed to say I am sympathetic of Marshall Applewhite, despite he can arguably be charged for murder of other followers of the Heaven’s Gate cult. But what a fascinating cult. As intellectual in a way, as it was delusional.

But Robin Williams could have so perfectly captured the emotional personality of Do. at least he would have been successful able to emanate the vibe of the charismatic cult leader. Only he could have done it so perfectly.

Recall Robin Williams playing Sy Parrish in One Hour Photo? One of his most dazzling and darker films in recent years. I won’t say it would convince you, but it can actually tell you of the great versatility of his acting talent. And that he was perfect for the role.

Hell, he was perfect for any role.

So I mourn, and become teary eyed, not just because we have lost Robin Williams. I always found his humor with a tinge of sadness.

Some idiot had complained about how mourning on social media was actually about the people themselves. Of course, it is. The mourning is about us. We have lost Robin Williams. He is dead. He is happy. Hopefully.

Again, I always found his humor with a tinge of sadness.

I found Bicentennial Man too heavy to watch. Is there a darker, sadder film with someone funny in it? Even fun films such as Jumanji have that emotional bittersweet value that you can’t separate your childhood from it.

But you can’t stop adoring his films.

I love Robin Williams the revolutionary in Good Morning VietnamPatch Adams and Dead Poet’s Society. I love Robin Williams the psychotic in Insomnia and One Hour Photo too. And even more so the ascetic lover in The Fisher King. Oscar anyone?

And of course, everybody loves Mrs. Doubtfire.

Can anyone possibly hate him? I guess there are a few nuts.

RIP Robin Williams.

Certainly the greatest actor of our times.

Not Glorifying Guns Anymore

Source: The Guardian

Source: The Guardian

It has been a couple of weeks, but I have been meaning to write this about Harvey Weinstein’s interview with my most favorite radio personality on Earth, Howard Stern. Now Howard has this way which makes it comfortable for people to talk to him. I mean if you are looking for a person who you would have Hillary Clinton talk to about her first orgasm, he is what you are looking for.

I am not going to put down the transcript, you can listen to the interview embedded below, but here is what he said. He said that he should not be saying this (rightly so), but he was going to do a film after which the NRA would wish they were not alive. Now curiously, Howard asked him, is it a documentary, which to me, makes the entire point of this post, that I am going to make rather more vulgarly and explicitly.

In another absolutely stupid, and even worse statement later, he claimed that he would not be producing films glorifying guns anymore. Even worse he agreed with his right wing critics. (Oh, there goes the Warsaw ghetto uprising project out of the window, not!)

What?

What does a film producer look like when he turns into a political activist?

A lot of conservative pro-gun commentators have criticized him for this statement, which I respect, with Sen. Ted Cruz even calling him a hypocrite (a bit too harsh in my opinion), but my problem with it is for a different reason.

It does not matter to me if Harvey is pro or anti gun. I don’t give a fuck about that. My problem is that he is making a film to send out this anti gun message. I am just curious how he would do that.

And I am a little disappointed because I am a huge fan of the wonderful films he has produced over the years. I wouldn’t write this if I were not. I have tremendous respect for Weinstein and I know my opinion probably does not even matter here, but here is what I think about it.

I just don’t like hearing those words from a man who knows so much about making films. But perhaps he just went with it in the whim of the moment though his later statement suggested otherwise, but as much as I respect him, my respect for him as an artist has gone way down. Though I hate to even admit it to myself.

Let’s just say I disagree. He said he should not be saying this, but now I am rather glad he did. Things like these should ruin a filmmaker’s reputation, but people don’t pay attention.

Now here is this fine line. Telling a story does not necessarily exclude it from being propaganda. And full of reinforcement of political views. You know, 12 Angry Men, To Kill a Mocking Bird, Dead Man Walking, All Quiet on the Western Front, Lincoln, Delta Force, the list goes on and on. And I admit, that film has historically always been at the heart of political propaganda, but I deeply despise and detest that. I simply cannot respect that as someone who writes stories myself, no mater how much I persuade myself.

Making anti Nazi films is a political view too. But you can just tell the story. You cannot expect people to adopt your political views by hearing them.

I mean I know a lot of people who would still hate Jews and love the Nazis after watching a Holocaust film. Why? Because they are assholes. But all you can do is tell a story.

Some of you may not be able to separate art from propaganda, but you can. Art cannot be neutral, nothing is neutral. But art is open. You are telling a story, you are not telling people what to do.

Martin Scorsese tells the story of Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street. He is not Michael Moore and it is not his business to tell people that capitalism is evil. He only tells them how this guy ended up. The End. You fade the fuck out.

Here is the problem.

Why is it that Weinstein thinks that people would really have any change of heart after watching this film? Because really, it is their own fucking business.

Has he conducted a survey of how many people disapproved of slavery after watching Django Unchained, or how many people have changed their minds about how much organized religion can mess a person’s life after watching Philomena, or maybe that George VI was not such an idiot after all after watching The King’s Speech?

OK, a lot of people must have stopped hating people with AIDS after watching Philadelphia or Dallas Buyers Club, or would have started sympathizing with Hitler after watching Der Untergang? But what does that even prove?

Then maybe people pissed at Django Unchained were right. though I don’t even recall what their outrage was about, it was so stupid.

Really, is this his concept of what film is meant to do and what filmmaking and telling stories is about? That sounds to me like Republicans saying that people become violent due to video games when explaining mass shootings.

Who knows. Maybe both of them are right. Maybe I am wrong on this.

Maybe we should go back to the time when the films were censored and cut out  and not rated. Maybe there really are things that people are supposed to see and those that they are not supposed to see.

Maybe moral conservatism and moral policing have all the answers to the problems of the world.

Maybe there should be a department of enforcing righteousness and forbidding evil as the Islamic Sharia prescribes.

Yes, I would twist this statement to this point, because this is precisely what it is about, whether you admit it or not. That is up to you.

I just think Harvey Weinstein should have been the last person saying that. Someone like Cher or Mia Farrow or Meryl Streep or Jon Stewart would make more sense.

I mean, sure you can make a film telling the story of the Aurora shooting incident in Colorado. That would make a great and moving film actually, but doing it specifically to destroy the NRA or achieve some other political goal or lobbying leverage would not help your cause as an artist. Why not make a fucking documentary about it?

Or perhaps that kind of lobbying content is just a repulsive idea for a storyteller, no strings attached.

People know shootings are terrible. They know what happened. They know it is a bad thing. They saw it on the news. They are not stupid. The pro-gun folks will still remain pro-gun. The anti-gun folks will remain anti-gun.

Those who think killing people is a good idea would most likely still think it is a good idea. Mass shootings will still take place. But taking guns away to prevent them is not a bad argument.

It may sound like making too much fuss about nothing to some, but hey, if I rubbed shoulders with him, I would break his balls real time for that. I read somewhere that Louis B. Mayer was upset with Billy Wilder for making Sunset Blvd, one of the best films ever made in history or at least Hollywood’s best, because it showed Hollywood in a bad light (what an idiot), but someone should be genuinely upset at Harvey for this statement. Sadly, only pro gun conservatives were.

And probably the anti gun liberals would have trashed them for that. But everyone missed what the statement was about, because many of them probably believe that too anyway. Therefore, the condemnations of films like The Wolf of Wall Street, Django UnchainedLa Voie lactéeThe Last Temptation of Christ and Passion of the Christ and many many more elsewhere.

To me, it is beyond being liberal or conservative. It’s just stupid.

Also, Harvey, I am all for Jews with guns (hey, why, Germany was a peaceful country), I actually prefer them with guns, as in Israel, as it could have avoided, or at least delayed the Holocaust. And will prevent them getting attacked from all sides today. Remember Yom Kippur War? (OK, maybe my pacifism has had a little reality check)

But what I am not for is a Jewish girl avenging her family by setting a theater on fire full of a crowd of innocent German families, despite being Nazis, and having soldiers shoot the hell out of them? Alright, there were criminal Nazi generals in there too and I don’t mind interfering in her brand of justice, but what the heck.

But what is that for a message you are sending out to the audience, since you think your films have such a massive political impact. It’s a spectacular, funny climax scene, I know, gotta love Tarantino, but from your understanding, it sends out a bad message to the kids supposed to hate guns. Doesn’t it?

Did what I just said about this scene sound stupid to you?

It does? Well, I don’t blame you.

Maybe Ted Cruz was right about him after all.

Well, Harvey Weinstein is not half as close to his honesty or understanding about propaganda as Goebbels, but maybe he is getting there.

But my brother just said to me. Don’t take him seriously. He was on Howard Stern.

I just cannot.

The Message of the Film

From the film “I Clowns” or “The Clowns” (1970)

© 1970 RAI – RadioTelevisione Italiana, Compagnia Leone Cinematografica