WASHINGTON, Aug 18: For once, Pakistan is being discussed across New York not for a terrorist attack, but for a film that has won two awards at the New York City International Film Festival this year.
The film’s premiere at the Tribeca Cinema on Aug 10 was a sold-out affair.
Lamha — titled ‘Seedlings’ in English — bagged two awards at the festival, the People’s Choice Award for the Best Feature Film and the Best Actress for Aamina Sheikh who plays a leading role.
At the award winning ceremony at New York’s Angelika Film Centre, many Pakistanis were seen proudly proclaiming the Pakistani origin of the film, showing how everyone tries to own a success story.
Directed by Mansoor Mujahid, the film was nominated in five other categories – Best Actor in Leading Role (Mohib Mirza), Best Actor in Supporting Role (Gohar Rasheed), Best Score, Best Original Screenplay (Summer Nicks) and Best Director.
The best feature film award went to an Argentinian film, Moles. The best director award was bagged by Jorgo Papavassiliou for Slave, a co-production of Cyprus and Germany.
Lautaro Delgado of Argentina won the best leading actor award for Moles.
Lamha is about a young couple Maliha (Sheikh) and Raza (Mirza) and those affected by their deep struggle to reconnect after the loss of their only child in a tragic accident.
“It is a human-interest drama about the complexities of human and familial relationships in the aftermath of a tragic accident,” Lamha’s producer Meher Jaffri told a South Asian social site, Suhaag. “It revolves around three lives that are affected. It speaks about loss, anger, blame, forgiveness and redemption.”
Jaffri, who studied business at McGill University in Montreal, was inspired by the Indian-American filmmaker Mira Nair whose Monsoon Wedding drew mainstream American film viewers as well.
“I love how she (Nair) infuses her brand of mischief in all her movies and portrays the South Asian narrative in a universal sort of language while maintaining the cultural nuances and characteristics beautifully,” says Jaffri, Jaffri also says that the Pakistani film industry needs training in technical skills in both film and television which remains the primary medium of entertainment in the country.
“There is absolutely no support from the public sector in any way, no funding for films or support for film programmes and initiatives,” she complaints. “Privately too, people are hesitant to invest in films as it is not a familiar investment option.”
Jaffri points out that there are not enough cinema houses or distributors in Pakistan, although she sees much “passion and talent,” which “need to be nurtured with better training programmes”.
Lamha has also stirred an animated debate on Pakistani sites across North America, with some questioning: “Why does every work of art in Pakistan need a Gora stamp of approval before it’s recognised by the media?”
“I watched this movie with my family and I can tell you it is clean,” says a commentator. “Aamina Sheikh is brilliant. The movie is about losing a child, it is emotional, heart breaking, and captivating. Please don’t reject it without seeing the film. You will love it.”
“I live in the US and cannot tell you how proud I feel when a movie or anything connected to Pakistan is recognised here. We must learn to recognise success. Long Live Pakistan,” wrote another commentator.