Censor board prohibits Face Film Festival from screening another film

Published May 1, 2016
Film critic John Anderson and filmmaker Bill Megalos perform at the Face Film Festival at PNCA on Saturday. — Photo by Tanveer Shahzad
Film critic John Anderson and filmmaker Bill Megalos perform at the Face Film Festival at PNCA on Saturday. — Photo by Tanveer Shahzad

ISLAMABAD: Another film that was to be screened at the Foundation for Arts, Culture and Education (Face) Film Festival 2016 was banned by the censor board for being ‘anti-state’.

The festival was not allowed to screen Besieged in Quetta, a film by independent filmmaker Asef Ali Mohammad which shed light on the plight of the city’s Hazara population.

The censor board’s letter says the film “promoted ethnicity and sectarianism (sic!)”.

Earlier, the board had also stopped the festival organisers from screening Among the Believers.

In a letter, the vice chairman of the censor board, Adnan Akram Bajwa, described the award winning documentary Among the Believers as “unsuitable” for public exhibition.

The letter, which is available with Dawn, reads: “It also contains dialogues, which project a negative image of Pakistan in the context of fighting the ongoing war against extremism and terrorism.”


The film is a documentary on the plight of Quetta’s Hazara community


Produced by Hemal Trivedi and directed by Mohammad Ali Naqvi, the documentary follows the Lal Masjid and its network of seminaries, as well as two students, and contains comments from the controversial Lal Masjid cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz.

Anam Abbas, the director of the film festival, said the documentary has already been screened in over a dozen countries, and has won multiple awards.

“The censor board did not agree with the politics of the film, and argued that the documentary revived a dead issue,” Ms Abbas said.

According to Face president Zeejah Fazli: “The censor board could have allowed us to show the version of these films that was acceptable to them. Completely banning the films is discouraging for filmmakers who want to show the truth.”

Bill Megalos said: “Being able to tell a story using sounds, music and images is new literacy and the most effective way to get the message across.”

A scene from the movie Noor shown at PNCA on Saturday. — White Star
A scene from the movie Noor shown at PNCA on Saturday. — White Star

The festival, however, did screen a number of films featuring a range of directorial styles and stories, including Noor, Mina Walking, and some short animated films.

The show opened on Saturday night with Noor, directed by Cagla Zencirci and Guillaume Giovanetti. The film follows Noor, a transgender man who is done with Pakistan’s transgender community, gets a job at a truck decoration centre and decides to find a woman who will accept him as he is. The film was also presented at the French embassy.

The film was followed by a performance by musical group Wild Mangos, which performed covers of The Doors, The Beatles, Black Sabbath and Steppenwolf.

Audiences were particularly taken with short films like Animals, a submission from Singapore directed by Mark Wee, and the Iranian short film Fish directed by Saman Hosseinpuor.

Festival goers also had the opportunity to hear industry veterans, such as award winning documentary filmmaker Bill Megalos, and Washington Post film critic John Anderson, speak on Hollywood; why it has succeeded and how that success can be replicated in the Pakistani film industry.

The two will be interacting with 15 aspiring film and documentary makers over the next days, and filmmakers will also visit the United States to gain exposure.

Mina Walking, a nearly two-hour film, was another highlight of the festival.

It follows Mina, who has become responsible for supporting her family, and wanders the streets of Kabul selling cheap trinkets to feed her ill grandfather and heroin addicted father.

Mina hopes to have a normal life, and secretly attends school, setting in motion a chain of events that changes her life forever.

Published in Dawn, May 1st, 2016

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