KARACHI: A movie documenting the issue of forced religious conversion in Sindh has won an award at the Cannes World Film Festival.

‘The Losing Side’ bagged the award in the category of ‘Best Human Rights Film’ for the month of November, the Awards announced in a Facebook post.

The film is based on real events with four victims of forced conversions narrating their stories, said movie director Jawad Sharif while talking to Dawn.

Released under the banner of Jawad Sharif Films, the movie was submitted for the awards a couple of months back and it was nominated for the award in mid-December.

On the last day of 2022, Mr Sharif learned that his movie has won the accolade. “Such good news on the last day of 2022. Our film The Losing Side has won the Best Human Rights Film Award at @cannesworldfilmfestival,” he wrote in an Instagram post.

Talking about the thought behind the project, Mr Sharif told Dawn the idea was to make a film on the heritage and culture of minorities and how they are preserving it.

Minority communities like Hindus and Christians in Sindh face the issues of religious conversions which are sometimes by choice, while some are forced, Mr Sharif said.

In many cases, he added, underage Hindu girls are kidnapped, forcefully converted to Islam and then married off to a Muslim man.

In its annual report for the year 2021, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said at least 27 alleged forced conversion cases were reported from Sindh, with a majority of victims belonging to “low-caste or scheduled-caste Hindus and Christians”.

Seven cases even involved minors, the HRCP added.

This is not the first recognition received by the movie. Earlier this year, the movie was nominated for an award at the Barcelona Human Rights Film Festival but fell short of winning it.

For Mr Sharif, these awards serve a bigger purpose than mere recognition. “I believe this award is more meaningful as it will give space to a sensitive issue in the mainstream media,” he said.

According to him, such festivals and events are important to present a ‘counter-narrative and narrative of resistance’.

Published in Dawn, january 2th, 2023

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