Immersive Film Festival

Film festivals like #giffxnapa2023 bring forth a dazzling array of films from around the world and serve as an education in themselves.

By Junaid Zubairi | November 2023

The National Academy of Performing Arts (NAPA) recently organized a three-day film festival, dubbed #giffxnapa2023, in collaboration with the Gandhara Independent Film Festival (GIFF).
The first day of the festival began with a captivating trilogy consisting of “Spider,” “Bear,” and “Shark” by Australian filmmaker Nash Edgerton. A special conversation with veteran film actress Mumtaz became the day’s highlight. Mumtaz is known for some memorable films in the 1970s and 1980s, with several unforgettable songs picturized by her. The day ended with the screening of Aaina, one of Pakistan’s most liked Urdu films ever produced.

The second day was an ode to Pakistani talent, beginning with a cinematic workshop by Asghar Ali Ghanchi. Ali Sattar’s epic “Talish, scripted by Faheem Azam and brought to life by the stellar performance of Zahid Ahmed, left a profound impact on the audience. The day also included a special screening of Shahnawaz Bhatti’s “Mai Bakhtawar,” a presentation by the Culture Department of Sindh. This film, based on the life of a peasant who stood for the rights of the poor and oppressed workers and gave the ultimate sacrifice, was a testament to the province’s rich history. Awais Hameed’s “A Ticket to Paradise” and Arsalan Khan’s “Beauty Boxed” tackled critical social issues that impact the lives of many families and communities.

Berlin-based Emre Mirza’s “12 Hours” drew a large and appreciative audience. This deeply nuanced Turkish-language film, set against the backdrop of the global pandemic, was a moving and profound exploration of the human condition. The conversation with Emre’s mother and eminent artiste Beo Raana Zafar that followed the screening offered the audience a chance to delve into international narratives and gain a global perspective on storytelling and artistic expression. The day ended on a high note with the screening of Madaari, a recently released fast-paced feature film on the street life of Karachi.

The third day featured two films that touched on sensitive and less-explored issues: Kuldeep Khatri’s “The Promise (Vachan)” and Ali Mehdi’s “Stay Tuned (Intizar Farmaaiye).” The accompanying panel discussion on censorship and creativity, moderated by Omair Alavi and featuring Saeed Rizvi and Satish Anand, shed light on the often complex relationship between artistic freedom and societal norms.

The highlight of the evening was the premiere of Kamran Anwar’s “Songs of the Sufi,” a musical documentary that delved into the history and culture of Qawwali in South Asia. The festival’s grand finale was a Sama’a mehfil by Najmuddin and Saifuddin Qawwal. Their stirring performances were a testament to the profound connection between music and the performing arts.

Bringing forth a dazzling array of films from around the world, film festivals like #giffxnapa2023 offer much more than a mere showcase of cinema; they serve as an education in themselves, enriching the artistic sensibilities of all involved.