Documentaries about Pakistan: A step in the right direction?

Published: June 24, 2012

Pakistan is a land full of stories. Its culture, ideas, politics and landscapes are so vast and intriguing that it invites artists for exploration all the time.

Ever since 9/11, Pakistan has been the center of media attention ─ be it nationally or internationally. The so-called ‘war on terror’ has given rise to a lot of interest in the foreign film market, encouraging people from all over the world to analyse its complexities surrounding fundamentalism and liberalism.

But one question, I feel, is extremely important for us to explore is ‘why Pakistan?’.

So, in the hopes to settle my query, I invited my fellow co-workers to share their views on documentaries that are made about Pakistan. They were asked a set of four questions in relation to the sudden interest in documentaries revolving around Pakistan. I have listed them and some interesting responses as follows.

Why has Pakistan become the centre of attention to many documentary makers?

 The two most clear and obvious answers were,

Ever since Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy won an Oscar

And,

Because of its politics.

For many, this one was a no-brainer.

Then getting down to the real questions, I went on to ask,

Do you think these documentaries represent a positive image of Pakistan?

There were mixed views on this question. The majority oscillated between ‘yes’ and ‘no’ but  interestingly enough, a few people believed that filmmakers should not be bound to represent their subject in a certain manner. These, I believe were true journalists.

 “What you see is what you get.”

This was an interesting opinion as  I, too, believe that documentaries should reflect the ground reality and shouldn’t sugar coat unnecessarily.

Do these documentaries create a negative stereotype of Pakistan?

Many believed that sensitive subjects are being exploited to create drama for the viewers. Certain negative aspects are enhanced while positive others are never highlighted, stated the majority. But one argued quite reasonably that,

 These (Saving Face) aren’t the only documentaries about Pakistan. There are other documentaries being made about culture, food street, Thar desert….

He made a valid point!

On which Pakistani aspect would you like to make a documentary on?

This was my last question, and interestingly enough, the one answer that seemed to take the lead on this questions was,

The youth!

Thus, I believe that there is great room for growth in this segment of the industry in Pakistan. There are many passionate Pakistanis out there desperate to tell their stories. Whether in support or against present documentaries, one thing is for certain; it is high time for the world to get to meet the real Pakistan!

Jibran.Khan

Jibran Khan

An independent filmmaker who has worked on numerous short films and has taught Film Theory at Szabist University. Currently he is studying Media Arts and Design at the Bauhaus University in Weimar, Germany.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Jawaria Hameed

    Well written Jibran Khan. Specially the last line, LOVE IT!Recommend

  • Kanwal

    “On which Pakistani aspect would you like to make a documentary on?”

    On Abdus Sattar Edhi. on the two Nobel Laureates produced by this area of the world in the last 100 years (AbdusSalam and Khorana).
    And on our nation’s survival spirit. Recommend

  • Shamim Manzar

    Dear Jibran, I think you are doing well. Good to see you here, with Express Tribune. You precisely know, how to write a feature. I am proud of you. All the best.Recommend

  • Ali

    The govt. should organize a collection of these docs to be shown around te worldRecommend