Crowdfund “Zunn: Showgirls of Pakistan”

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The creators of a documentary called Zunn: Showgirls of Pakistan are looking to crowdfund their post-production efforts.

Showgirls of Pakistan is a documentary feature on the lives of dancing girls in Punjab, Pakistan. It unveils a world of smut theater and strip-shows in small towns and villages through the eyes of the women that are profited from but are never heard. These showgirls are managed by a violent mafia, pimps, boyfriends and promoters who regularly export them to the UAE club scene.

As a society, we Pakistanis have a strange obsession with damning entire swaths of people under the guise of “morality.” This documentary is one of the gradually increasing number of projects trying to bring attention to Pakistan’s seedy underbelly. In doing so they’re doing the incredibly important job of re-humanizing the disenfranchised and the outcast. Unfortunately, the morality policy has in fact struck this project; the producers of Showgirls of Pakistan have had to take their trailer offline in response to threats from certain parties who disapprove the message this documentary is trying to convey. And yet, the filming is complete; all that’s left now is the post-production.

The endeavor is an expensive one, but it isn’t unattainable. The producers of Showgirls only have a few more weeks to accomplish their goal of $15000, and right now they only have a little more than $2500.

This project has the potential to go a long way in addressing many dangerously – intentionally – ignored issues in Pakistan and so many other countries around the world – mental illness, sexuality, gender identity, abuse. If you are able, I beseech you to go support it. A dollar can go such a long way in making sure the voices of Nadia, Afreen and Reema Jan and so, so many others are heard.

image taken from Showgirls of Pakistan’s Facebook page

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Two and a half thoughts from Thanksgiving eve

  1. I always get a little bit emotional whenever I watch Hook. It reminds me far too much of my own childhood, where I could spend endless hours with my own imagination. I’d make a laptop out of my heavy blue notebook, following my mother around and pulling out it out whenever we had even a few minutes to sit down; I would daydream for ages, thinking of all my favorite characters from TV shows, books and cartoons, creating scenarios where I would save the day and be the heroine to end all heroines. I would frolic – like, literally frolic – in my garden in Lahore and pluck flowers, grass, seeds and berries, mashing them into elixirs that I would then taste-test. I determined that elixirs are naturally bad-tasting things, and that simply the act of making them was enough. Actually imbibing in my potions was optional. But here’s the part in Hook that really got to me: when Maggie sings, and sings with all her heart out at the moon. Goosebumps. I always tell people that I used to sing a lot as a kid, that I used to be a really good singer. Truth is, I was just less inhibited as a child, because I didn’t hold myself to standards that either I had set for me or that I had cultivated for myself based on the world around me. I could sing my heart out, forget about whether it was good or bad, and the confidence was all I needed. Now, even when I’m alone, I police my own singing. How ridiculous is that? I police my singing, my drawing, my writing, and in doing so, I run the risk of taking the fun out of my own hobbies. Refining your skills is extremely important, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not as important as remembering how to enjoy the things you love doing. I nearly ruined drawing for myself; I still love singing in a group and aggressively screaming the lyrics to Bohemian Rhapsody or Vienna during karaoke nights; and writing is still my one of my greatest joys in life. Keep what you love close to your heart, and improve on it every day, but never compromise love for expertise.
  2. This is a slightly darker thought. In a way, I feel like I’m exposing certain people by writing this but the hope is that we are far too old to remember minute details of our childhood at this point. Pakistan’s demographics lean heavily towards the Muslim majority side. Only 1.8% of our population is Christian, but then, that’s a nice, solid 2,700,000 people. Pakistan’s a pretty big country. Anyway, I must have been 11 years old. I had a pretty good awareness of the world around me, being the budding future political science major that I was. I was also a voracious reader and pretty damn observant. So, I observed that a classmate of mine (who incidentally had the same name as me) wore the same necklace everyday to class. I had a feeling. One day, as we were playing during our recess, I noticed that it had slipped out from underneath the kameez of her uniform: a green, beautiful cross. I absolutely loved it. I wanted to know more. I had been reading a lot about Christianity and was fascinated by the religion. I’m not sure exactly what I said, it was either a really excited and sincere “Is that a cross?” or a nonchalant, feigning-at-tacit “What is that?” Immediately, her hand went to the cross, and her body language changed to a defensive one. Her voice didn’t change, but I knew the stream of conversation wasn’t going to put her at ease and make her feel as open as I was hoping it would. “It’s a medal,” she said, hurriedly. “…a medal?” “Yes.” I knew not to pry any further. Eventually, I think she became more open with me about her religion as we got to know each other better, but that was the day I realized what being marginalized meant. You could approach someone with the most sincere of intentions, but that doesn’t matter if you’ve been raised being told to be careful about your words and to keep your identity on the down-low. I understand that a lot better now, because it’s something I’ve been forced to experience. But back in Pakistan, I was supremely privileged – a Sunni-raised Muslim girl (albeit with strange Sufi family traditions) who fit the right demographics and had a family name that didn’t make people raise their eyebrows.
    1. I don’t think I have to explain what has happened recently to make me think along these lines, but I have just one thing to contribute: since coming to America, every time I see a police officer, my heart beats a little bit faster. I put on my most gracious smile, chirp a friendly “Thank you, officer! Have a good day, officer!” and put my head down to keep walking. I’m obviously brown, and that already puts me in a neat box to be scrutinized in. But I have the distinction of not being black. And that’s where my right to chip into the conversation ends.

That is all. Have a good day, everyone. Be careful, be kind.

“And the Oscar goes to…”

I could not be happier with the Oscars this time around, for various reasons that will be highlighted in this particular post, but let me start by mentioning the movies I have actually seen:

  • The Iron Lady
  • The Artist
  • Hugo

…and that’s really it. Well, I have seen a lot more movies, but those are the ones that immediately spring to my mind and let me just say how ecstatic I am at all the awards won by The Artist and Hugo! I wasn’t even half way through The Artist and it’d become one of my favorite movies, so when Jean Dujardin won Best Actor and the movie itself got Best Picture, I had to stand up in my living room and clap.

There’s something so beautiful about watching a modern-day silent film about silent films. It’s a kind of nostalgia which is ridiculous, considering I was born decidedly detached from the era of silent films, but it nonetheless manages to elicit a constant stream of tears for the last 30 minutes of the movie. I fell in love with George Valentin even though he said nothing but two words through the course of the film, and that too right in the end. I think that, in itself, shows a lot about the whole silent film industry – that you can have the same amount of love for a character, that you can extract that same adoration and awe at the brilliance of film regardless of the lack of 3D.

I’m not going to whine about how the sanctity of film has been ruined by technological advancement because, who am I kidding, I fawned over the cinematographic mastery that was shown in Hugo and even Avatar, much to my shame.

Film, in general, is incredible. Motion pictures, the entire idea of motion pictures, has revolutionized the world and it doesn’t matter how ludicrous the cinematographic technology might get because, damn it, it’ll NEVER take away from the magic of cinema. Since its conception, the film industry has acted as an escape for people, and it will continue to do so no matter what kind of technology is being used; that’s true for everything else, for the advent of e-books, to the new generation of TV shows that are looked down upon by “the 90s kids,” to even the fashion worn by pop stars today.

The world will advance, whether you like it or not, so you can either be like The Artist and pay tribute to history, to what was the beginning of an industry, while recognizing that industries change and evolve and that’s good – or you can bitterly cling to the past and ruin your present like George Valentin nearly did.

We all need a bit of Peppy Miller in us. By rejecting Peppy, we reject our own future, and as much as I love history, I love the prospect of the future more.

(…clearly, I liked The Artist a lot.)

On another, extremely delighted note, congratulations to Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy for her Oscar for Saving Face! You’ve done your country proud.

And your outfit was incredible.

So an overall satisfactory Academy Awards. Now, to get to watching all the movies I’ve missed out on!

Movie Review: Chronicle

The first word I would use to describe Chronicle is “psychotic.”

I’m not even joking, this movie is just…completely psychotic. The premise is that three high school seniors – one of whom uses a camera to interact with the world instead of direct interaction – find a really deep ditch which seems to be emanating these high pitched, typical radioactive noises. As teenagers are prone to do, they bully the camera-kid, Andrew, into going in with them and exploring it. The ditch turns out to be a really deep tunnel of sorts which leads to an electric blue wall, with a jagged surface.

Boom, bam, the jagged surface turns red and the camera fizzles out. Next day, Andrew records as they all try out their newfound telekinetic abilities.

The entire movie is seen through various camera lenses, primarily through Andrew’s own, which is a pretty messed up insight into Andrew’s…rapidly evolving psychopathic tendencies.

That, coupled with telekinetic powers, a dying mother, an abusive father and the city of Seattle…

Not very promising.

Honestly, the movie was incredible, apart from the all too familiar “let’s kill off the ethnic minority first!” aspect and I definitely recommend it to anyone debating which film to watch over the weekend.

More than that, though, the movie was a perfect example of how an abusive household can mess a kid up, with or without telekinesis, especially when coupled with the stress of school and bullying. What you might think is harmless could be interpreted very, very differently by the object of your banter.

Be careful of what you say to people and know when to draw the line. For all you know, they might decide to wreak havoc upon your geographical area of choice.