The Pakistani Academy Selection Committee has invited Pakistani filmmakers to submit their films for Oscar consideration in the ‘International Feature Film Award’ category for the 92nd Academy Awards. The deadline for submission is 15th August, 2019 at 5 pm (PST).
As per the eligibility criteria, the film must be first released within its home country no earlier than October 1, 2018, and no later than September 30, 2019. It must be first publicly exhibited for at least seven consecutive days in a commercial motion picture theater for the profit of the producer and exhibitor. Now this must present as a conundrum for the Pakistani Oscar Committee as most of the highly-anticipated Pakistani films for the year 2019 are scheduled to release on Eid ul Azha which will fall close to the deadline.
Looking back at the Pakistani films which come under the time frame allotted by the Academy Awards, we have Donkey King, Pinky Memsaab and Teen Bahadur: Rise of the Warriors which were released after October 2018.
In 2019, Pakistani audience have so far seen Gumm; In the middle of nowhere, Sherdil, Laal Kabootar, Project Ghazi, Chhalawa, Wrong No. 2 and Baaji, while Ready Steady No is slated to release on July 19. Parey Hut Love, Heer Maan Ja, Superstar and Kaaf Kangana are scheduled for Eid ul Azha (probably second week of August). We haven’t seen the films yet, but judging by the trailers, songs and actors involved, we expect some of these films to be engaging.
We tried to ascertain if these films can qualify for submission while they have just started running in cinemas, but still have not got any concrete response in this regard. If the films are required to be released earlier than September 30, 2019 then these four can easily make the cut after completing a good spell (at least seven days) at the cinemas before September ends.
Despite the fact that their eligibility is a looming question, are PHL, Superstar and Heer Maan Jaa the kind of films that are chosen for Oscars submission? We haven’t seen commercial, masala, romantic dramas in the nominations so far.
Bilal Lashari’s The Legend of Maula Jatt is still clouded by uncertainty with respect to its release date. Hence, Pakistani cinema hasn’t got a lot to offer this year in terms of quality content for Oscar submission.
Let’s breakdown why a significant number of films from the above mentioned lot may not seem to be a good fit for the Oscars. Although Donkey King and Teen Bahadur were quite successful at the local box office, animated films are rarely submitted in the said category.
Others quite possibly cannot make it to the final nomination for several reasons; Chhalawa and Wrong No. 2 are no-brainer comedies with eccentric humour that doesn’t target global audience. Neither the production value nor the storyline of Gumm, Sherdil and Project Ghazi are at par with the anticipated competition. Nevertheless, we are left with limited choices i.e Pinky Memsaab, Laal Kabootar and Baaji, along with PHL, Superstar and Heer Maan Ja.
According to Imran Kazmi (the producer of Heer Maan Ja), their film will give a message about honour killing and that seems interesting. We haven’t seen any of the Eid films yet (not even the trailers of all of them) so it’s too soon to predict.
Moving to the films that we’ve already seen; Pinky Memsaab is the story of a young woman (Pinky) who hails from rural Pakistan and becomes a maid in a wealthy Dubai household. It depicts the tumultuous journey of Pinky’s self-discovery. Laal Kabootar is a Karachi-based crime drama, whereas Baaji is social drama-cum-thriller revolving around the life of a fading superstar, Shameera.
Also read: ‘Cake’ drops out of the Oscar race
Judging by previous Oscar submissions from Pakistan that include films like Zinda Bhaag, Dukhtar, Moor, Mah-e-Mir, Saawan and Cake, we’ve a feeling that the committee endorses films that have edgy scripts, strong performances and deep-rooted connection to Pakistani society along with great production value. And if they had to choose between these shortlisted movies, Laal Kabootar is the only film which stands a chance to qualify.
The Pakistani Oscar Committee for 2019 is chaired by two-time Academy Award and Emmy winning documentary filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and includes prominent names like Zeba Bakhtiar, journalists Zarrar Khuhro and Hamna Zubair, Assistant Professor of Film Studies Zebunnisa Hamid, Sarmad Khoosat, Sanam Saeed, Asim Abbasi, Rizwan Beyg, and CEO of Nueplex Cinemas Jamil Baig. The committee will announce its nomination in September 2019.
Which Pakistani film do you think should be nominated for Oscars this year?