The Pakistan film industry may still be finding its feet but that has not stopped filmmaker Sabiha Sumar from talking about issues, especially those that are swept under the carpet. Credited with bringing the first Pakistani film to India, Khamosh Pani (Silent Waters) in 2003, 53-year-old Sumar is now working on The Judgement.
“I wouldn’t call The Judgement or any other film of mine issue-based, really. I just tell stories about what I see around me. The Judgement is a love story but also shows how the girl’s family betrays her because she goes against them,” says Sumar. She is reluctant to give it an “honour killing label” though much of the critical acclaim that has come her way is because of her documentaries on religious fundamentalism.
Born to parents who lived in India before Partition, Karachi-born and bred Sumar is married to a Sri Lankan researcher. It was during his stint to India as a foreign researcher that she worked on Khamosh Pani. “I worked with an Indian writer Paromita Vohra, and returned to Pakistan with an Indian crew, to make the film. So it was logical that I would seek to release it in India too, which fortunately happened,” says the Cambridge educated filmmaker.
Khamosh Pani, which incidentally was her first feature film, has played in film festivals around the world and won the Golden Leopard award at the Locarno International Film Festival in 2003. Sabiha’s first documentary, Who Will Cast the First Stone, on three women in prison in Pakistan under Islamic law won the Golden Gate Award at the San Francisco Film Festival in 1998.
What does she find different about films made in Pakistan and India? “The Pakistan film industry is very new, it’s just starting while the Indian film industry is very old. But, our television industry is well established and has been making waves in India. So while as a film industry we are just five to seven films old, because we have strong content and actors in television I think the future of films is bright in Pakistan,” says Sumar. She admits though that the country could definitely see some more women entering the field. What’s more, she might just make a film in India. “It’s something I am working on but it’s too early to talk about it,” she says.