Pakistan’s independent filmmakers have always amazed local and international audience with their work and ability.
A talented filmmaker from Hunza Valley, Faheem Afzal, is one such example who can leave you spellbound with his amazing cinematography of snow-covered mountains, its cultures and traditions.
This young muscular man with long hairs and neatly grown brown beard, a very close physical resemblance with Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant, has attracted world’s attention through his art, while surprisingly missed limelight of our local mainstream and social media.
He has fetched two international awards — from Bulgaria and Russia — in the category of ‘Best Cinematography’ for his short documentary film ‘Shupun Khick – The Last Wakhi Shepherdess’. Wakhi is a member of the Southern Pamir group of Iranian languages. It is spoken in parts of Pakistan and neighboring mountainous region.
The story is shot high up in the northern mountains of Pakistan. It revolves around a courageous and determined shepherdess who has left her home to keep the century old tradition of shepherding alive. The film is directed by Zeo Zia and its cinematographer is Faheem.
Learning the art of filmmaking has not been an easy experience for him as his family had to undergo difficult times to bear his expenses because his father was just an ambulance driver. Faheem got his education from National College of Arts, Lahore.
“All my successes owe my father’s support. He bore expenses of my education in adverse circumstances and then took charge as production manager in my filmmaking venture,” he said.
Faheem deems Michael Moore, an American documentary filmmaker and author, and Tarsem Dhandwar, an Indian-American director, his ideals for making documentaries. However, he would not copy any.
“I do not copy anyone. My ancestors have been shepherds. The cinematography for my flicks is more so an inborn art which has been naturally adopted by the environment around me,” he said.
Some formal discussion with this young talent is as follows:
ARY News: What motivated you to specifically picturise the beauty of your region?
Faheem Afzal: My father used to make tourists commute on his jeep to and from scenic locations. Post-9/11 incident of the United States, when I was only 15, the tourism industry of Pakistan was badly jolted which had trickle-down effects on our family as well.
I want to bring back pre-9/11 life to my home and whole the Gilgit-Baltistan region.
Diminishing of tourism has not just affected economy but it has also closed the doors of wisdom and knowledge which we benefitted from the tourists during chat and exchange of ideas.
ARY News: Is your interest limited to filming documentaries of northern areas or you have a plan to make a commercial or feature film up your sleeve?
FA: Not now. I think, the documentaries made on mountains have more potential to move audiences in comparison with the conventional local movies.
Currently, I am working on documentaries to make understand local society and its inhabitants. You might see a feature film by me in the coming years which you can translate as commercial flick as well (he chuckled).
ARY News: Did your family support you in adopting filmmaking as a career?
FA: This is a long story. I would surely say that my parents really helped me a lot in my journey of cinematography.
ARY News: What is the feedback of artists from Pakistani film industry on your documentaries?
FA: I know many guys from Pakistan industry. They have immensely appreciated me since inception of my career.
ARY News: How do international filmmakers see your work?
FA: Some international filmmakers keep an eye on my work on social media and I always cherish their advices and comments as asset to me.
I am also thankful to management of both the international film festivals who bestowed awards to me.
ARY News: Have you ever encountered the state of grave despair throughout your career?
FA: Yes, I did. The most difficult time for me was when over 12 ideas of my films were rejected by NGOs in three years continuously.
ARY News: Have you found likeminded people in Hunza to kickoff film industry in northern areas?
FA: Indeed, the people of Hunza are modest and love the art of cinema. They are eager to portray their traditions before the world. Meanwhile, several young filmmakers are getting education from Karachi and Lahore. Hopefully, within three to four years you will see a lot of talent flourishing in this region.
ARY News: What help are you rendering to the interested people of this region?
FA: Nothing at the moment. However, soon I am going to hold training workshops here at schools, colleges and villages located in difficult terrains.