By Sonya Rehman
A Lawyer, a Journalist, a PR Manager and a Politician – four young Pakistanis feature in director Nasir Khan’s topical documentary, ‘Made in Pakistan’, produced and released under the banner of ‘Talking Filmain’ (a production house in Lahore), this year.
Shot over a span of a few months, ‘Made in Pakistan’ features Waleed (a lawyer), Rabia (a journalist running her very own publication), Mohsin (a politician following in his father’s footsteps) and Tara (a PR and event manager).
While Waleed is shown discussing the lawyer’s movement and the impact that it has had on himself and the Pakistani lawyer community in general, Rabia is featured both as a young mother and wife, dealing with the day to day challenges of managing her monthly publication along with her team.
Mohsin on the other hand is revealed as a budding politician – going about his days speaking with people at the grassroots, while Tara is shown handling a mammoth event (sponsored by a multinational) for one of Pakistan’s most well-known designers.
Unlike other productions made with the intention of ‘challenging stereotypes’ and carrying with it a rather defensive tone, ‘Made in Pakistan’ steers clear of making any such statement.
Infact, I was slightly surprised when I happened to come across a few reviews in the local press about Nasir’s documentary aiming at challenging the world’s boxed-in view of Muslims and Pakistanis in general.
I reiterate, ‘Made in Pakistan’ lacks an edgy, self-protective tone. And thankfully so.
All that this one-hour, unscripted documentary does is present its audiences with a slice of life of four middle-class, young Pakistanis in light of Musharaff’s November 3rd imposition of a state of emergency (in 2007), followed by the country’s law and order situation going to pot and ruin after the imposition.
‘Made in Pakistan’ doesn’t make a ‘statement’, nor does it want you, the viewer, to assume anything too quickly.
It leaves one ruminating from start to finish, and its theme – open to interpretation – allows you to understand the grey areas (present in Pakistan’s socio-political condition) which are in stark contrast against the basic blacks and the whites.
The treatment of Nasir’s ‘Made in Pakistan’ reminds one a little of Michael Moore and Morgan Spurlock’s documentaries in its overall treatment.
But unlike Moore and Spurlock who attempt at making tongue-in-cheek remarks and peppering their scripts/scenes with caustic humour (especially Spurlock, which at times makes him seem as if he’s trying a little too hard to ape Moore), ‘Made in Pakistan’ in its treatment is real and unhurried. Basic, yet factual.
It depicts Pakistan standing too close for comfort, on the periphery of the gulch of total demolition – yet, hanging on tight by a sliver of hope.
And Rabia, one of the young Pakistani’s featured in the documentary echoes this very notion. With her face somber and pensive, she states: “We are a very hopeful nation. We are very optimistic”.
Watching Rabia say that broke my heart a little. This is because she was right. No matter how fiercely the odds have worked against Pakistan in the recent few years, our people – from each echelon of life – remain positively frustrated and jilted yes, but at the same time, still hopeful. Still resilient. Still persevering.
And that is what is heart-breaking. The realization of it all cuts deep.
The security situation within the country stands as a charade – so much so that countless lives have perished at the hands of it. How much can a nation of people take? How much longer before it becomes too late? How much longer before we are awoken from our deep slumber?
‘Made in Pakistan’ manages to stir up all these questions within its viewers quite effortlessly.
Currently, Nasir is trying to swing a cinema release for his documentary. Also, in the eminent future, the director hopes to release ‘Made in Pakistan’ on local television in addition to taking it out on DVD as well.
One hopes that the documentary gets as much media mileage as it can get because it stands as an earnest undertaking which is a poignant treat to watch.
That being stated, this is one documentary which also needs to be featured at film festivals overseas because this is one Pakistani documentary that western audiences must view by all means – to grasp what life truly is for the young generation in Pakistan.
And that is; that amidst the carnage, hope – the caged bird – sings. That nothing in Pakistan is taken for granted, and that life goes on…it always has to.
The Friday Times