Today: May 22, 2024
·

Slackistan

As the ever-increasing trend of substituting the first letter of
Hollywood to describe a foreign film industry continues, Pakistan’s
movie output has been labelled as Lollywood, after the film studios in
Lahore, even if it does sound like a brand name for ice-cream sticks. It
is, however, much better than the rather ill-chosen Gollywood used for
Ghana’s cinematic output.

Lollywood’s output pales into insignificance when compared with neighbouring Bollywood. The US
propaganda machine and international media would like us to believe it
is because the whole country is too busy training terrorists
, but,
if UK-Pakistani filmmaker Hammad Khan’s debut feature is anything to go
by, it is simply because they just can’t be arsed to make movies.

Slackistan is a low budget film, with an almost documentary
feel to it, that follows the lives of a group of well off
twentysomethings in Islamabad, the nation’s capital, as they squander
their private educations just driving around the city in daddy’s Merc,
hanging out at shisha bars and going to parties. The hero of the film,
Hasan, wants to be a filmmaker and has even purchased an expensive video
camera, but he just can’t seem to get motivated as hanging with his
friends and falling for Aisha, the girl next door, take priority. As the
film’s events unfold harsh realities start to invade the groups cosy
little world.

There is a definite, if slowly growing, independent film movement in Pakistan,
although a lot of the more internationally successful output is coming
from the diaspora in the US (such as Mehreen Jabbar’s Ramchand
Pakistani) and the UK. That’s not to say that the locals aren’t
producing movies. The issue could be more to do with distribution and
finding the right audience, which Mara Pictures in London are certainly
doing everything they can to bring these films to the discerning UK
public.

What is interesting to see is the extremely high quality of fusion music coming out of Pakistan at the moment, as seen with the superbly produced Coke Studio (www.cokestudio.com.pk),
with some of the artists featuring on the soundtrack to Slackistan,
along with The Kominas, the US Muslim punk band that featured in The
Taqwacores that was one of the highlights of this year’s London Film
Festival (not to be confused with the documentary called Taqwacore,
about the musical movement, in which the band also appears). In fact,
Slackistan and The Taqwacores are complementary, sharing a similar
aesthetic that also tries to break down the misconceptions and
stereotypes of contemporary Pakistanis whether they are living like
Americans in Islamabad, or as punks in New York dragging Islam kicking
and screaming into the 21st century. Both films have plenty of drama and
pathos but are also a lot of fun and can be enjoyed without having to necessarily become embroiled in the messages.

Slackistan does have its faults, but they are the same ones that face
most people making their debut feature on lo-no budget. The fact that
writer-director Khan was actually able to make the film at all in an
infamously restrictive country is an achievement in itself, but to make
one that manages to avoid the clichés and stereotypes has to be truly
commended – and seen.

Marcia Degia - Publisher

Marcia Degia, who has worked in the media industry for more than 20 years, is the Publishing Editor of KOL Social Magazine. See website: thekolsocial.com

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