The Karachi Whiz Kid and Pakistan’s First Hand Drawn Animated Flick

By Sonya Rehman

In 2012, a young, unassuming Pakistani musician from Karachi created waves after being selected as a TEDGlobal Fellow, following the success of his brilliant composition, Fire Fly, which went viral a year before.

Sharing stage space at TEDGlobal – a conference that brings together trailblazers from across the world to deliver inspiring talks – with his idol, the renowned guitarist, Preston Reed, Usman Riaz was quickly propelled into fame.

TEDGlobal 2012: Usman Riaz and Preston Reed. (Photo by James Duncan Davidson)
TEDGlobal 2012: Usman Riaz and Preston Reed. (Photo by James Duncan Davidson)

This year, while still in its initial stages, Riaz’s The Glassworker, Pakistan’s first hand drawn animated production, brings with it the magic and innocence of a Studio Ghibli film.

Judging by the production’s teaser, which was also showcased at TED this year, The Glassworker is an enchanting visual treat.

Little wonder then, the fact that Riaz successfully met his Kickstarter funding goal in just sixteen days, this month.

Glassworker Poster Kickstarter-04

“I’ve always loved the beauty of glassblowing,” Riaz said, speaking about the production’s concept. “It’s one of those rare art forms where the process of creating it is as beautiful as the finished result.”

Riaz, who stands as the production’s writer, director, and unsurprisingly, composer of The Glassworker’s musical score, began drawing well before his interest in music blossomed. “I’ve always loved art and animation,” the Studio Ghibli fan stated, mentioning that after studying a degree in fine arts, music and film overseas, he felt a strong desire to channel each medium into a work of art.

A still from The Glassworker
A still from The Glassworker

“What better way than to combine my work in art, music and storytelling than with animation?”

A tender coming-of-age story, the script focuses on the relationship between Vincent – a young boy who learns the art of glassblowing from his father, and Alliz, a gifted violinist who visits Vincent and his father’s shop on an avid basis.

“The film will be a comment on the affects of war on children,” Riaz said, “[The story] will follow both Vincent and Alliz through their developing years as life gets more complicated and inhibits their relationship.”

Usman Riaz (Photo by Mariam Riaz Paracha)
Usman Riaz (Photo by Mariam Riaz Paracha)

Revealing that both characters are unhappy with their lot in life, Riaz mentions that the production is a “very personal story told through [the characters of Vincent and Alliz].”

Given the production is hand drawn from start to finish, Riaz is a perfectionist when it comes to his meticulous story-boarding process. “I want each aspect of the film to be beautiful,” he stated, “Even if no one will see them, I want them to be beautiful for myself.”

And the music?

“The music determines the scenes for me,” the musician said, “If I have a particular idea or score written down, the visuals come automatically.”

A still from The Glassworker
A still from The Glassworker

For Riaz, the arduous creative process outweighs the gratification of a final product in hand. “For me, this is the best part, I’m thoroughly enjoying every step,” he stated.

While the completion of The Glassworker isn’t on the horizon anytime too soon, Riaz, with his team of animators spread across Malaysia, South Africa and Pakistan, optimistically nurtures an unwavering faith in fate.

“At the end of the day God is in control of everything and all we can do is try.”




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