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ISLAMABAD, Dec 14: The Citizens Foundation (TCF) held a private screening of Zinda Bhaag, the first Pakistani film to be nominated for the Oscars in 50 years, at the Pakistan National Council of Arts Auditorium.

The Zinda Bhaag team, including one of the directors and some of the Actors, was present at the screening, and for a question and answer session.

The story of Zinda Bhaag unravels the theme of illegal immigration, called ‘dunky’. This involves inhuman and dangerous methods of crossing borders into foreign lands.

The director, Farjad Nabi, said that their primary motivation for the film came from the stories of young friends who had crossed borders illegally and had found their lives destroyed in more ways than one.

Interestingly, however, despite mental health issues, lost limbs, acquired illnesses, debts incurred, emotional estrangement from their families, young men always answered in the affirmative when asked whether they’d do the ‘dunky’ again.

A desperation to prove themselves made taking extreme risks such as the ‘dunky’ almost an essential ingredient of being a ‘man’.

The script was constructed out of stories, anecdotes and events that the directors Nabi and Meenu Gaur encountered during intensive research for the film.

Based on real-life events, this film is a dialogue with not only the characters but those young men and women in the audience for whom the film will be an opportunity to reflect on the choices they make and the reasons and pressures behind it.

Nabi who has directed award-winning documentaries including ‘Nusrat has Left the Building … But When?’ and ‘No One Believes the Professor’ said: “The making of Zinda Bhaag was a roller-coaster of experiences.”

The actors were young men whose everyday lives were similar to those of the characters they were called upon to portray and none of the three had any prior acting experience.

Khaldi, Taambi and Chitta, along with other boys and girls for supporting roles, were chosen from auditions and were ‘trained’ through workshops, one of which was conducted by the acclaimed Indian actor Naseeruddin Shah, who played Puhlwan in the film.

Salman Ahmad Khan, who played Chitta, said, “It was a great experience. It was my first experience acting and it was like hitting a six(er) in my first game. The awards and the Oscar nomination are very encouraging.”

Khurram Patras, Zinda Bhaag’s Khaldi, said, “It was the first time acting for all of us and the first scene was very difficult. We all have our jobs but we will all carry on acting in films as and when opportunities come up.”

Manizeh Bano, Executive Director of Sahil said, “The film was very realistic and touching. The relationships they showed were beautifully done. It was a little weak technically – parts appeared to have been shot by an amateur handheld camera - but after a few initial scenes one forgot that. It was a story one could relate to.”

Asma Rashid Khan, the TCF Chairperson, says: “It is a matter of great pride for The Citizens Foundation to show Zinda Bhaag the first Pakistani film to be nominated for the Oscar’s in 50 years. The film raises issues affecting Pakistani youth and conveys important social messages that are very topical.

“At TCF we are providing education to Pakistani children and youth and by screening this film as a fundraiser for TCF we are honouring both these worthy causes.”

The TCF philosophy that a country’s human capital holds the key to its progress and attempts to reduce the inequity within the education system may well be the keys to disenchanting ‘dunky’ for the youth.