Glad tidings for Pakistan as a Pakistani director will finally showcase her project at the Cannes Cinéfondation Atelier this year. Filmmaker Iram Parveen Bilal — who has Aamina Sheikh starrer Josh: Independence Through Unity and several short films to her credit – has announced that her project Wakhri will be one of the 15 projects presented at the Cannes L’Atelier co-production meeting in May.
The Cinéfondation Atelier invites 15 directors to Festival de Cannes every year whose projects have been considered particularly promising. Together with the producers, these filmmakers get an opportunity to meet international co-production houses to help them start the making of their film and finish the project for Cannes.
In an exclusive conversation with Something Haute, Iram Parveen Bilal reveals details about her project and the honour of representing Pakistan at the prestigious forum.
“The project was a part of the prestigious Open Doors section at Locarno Film festival where Cannes Cinéfondation’s director caught eye of it as well as some of my past work. I’m so grateful for this opportunity and to represent the country with Wakhri,” she said.
Wakhri is a story of a female maths teacher who believes in education for girls. She creates a sexy avatar called Wakhri to promote the cause she believes in. The avatar captures the imagination of the Pakistani public with unexpected results. The story narrates how she stumbles upon a sex trafficking ring and in turn the culprit reveals her true identity in public resulting in social media trolls, unemployment and death threats.
“I’ve long been provoked by the response of modern technology towards social change and influence. Social media and its incredible – sometimes almost draconian – power to build up and break down individuals in today’s world is both awe-inducing and paralyzing to say the least. Wakhri is a conversation on that and a celebration of a colorful, Punjabi world in my attempt to pay homage to my mother’s side of the family,” Iram said about her project.
The event, organised by the Cannes Film Festival’s Cinéfondation, will run from 16th to 23rd May.
The story of Wakhri is loosely inspired from the life of social media stars (such as Qandeel Baloch). Iram was intrigued by this new phenomenon and explored it in writing.
“It is just inspired by the recent phenomenon of social media stars and not based on her (Qandeel’s) life. Our lead character comes from not many means and uses social media to gain power and influence. In some ways, we are dedicating this project to the people in our country who dare to escape the socio-economic boxes that our society wants them to fit in to,” she explained.
“This is at script stage currently so we haven’t showcased the film elsewhere. We did present the project at Locarno Open Doors last year where we were 1 of 8 projects selected from South Asia,” she added.
The filmmaker agrees that the world is still not receptive to the idea of female figures in authority. Hence, there are always more such stories to tell.
“Yes, very much so. But what else is new? I’d rather focus on those that make it and unpack those that don’t in an effort to pivot the way society perceives gender and authority,” she said.
Iram is honoured to be a part of the prestigious festival. She is grateful to represent the artist community of Pakistan at an international forum and wishes that Pakistan’ artists get the recognition they deserve.
“It is an honor and we are humbled. We are on the shoulders of a lineage of true greats of Pakistani art. We are merely a few of the faces of the fabric of artistry in a nation that has long not respected its artists the way it should. I represent all those artist survivors of Pakistan and hope to continue highlighting Pakistan on an international level not just through my work, but through the work of emerging artists that shine through Qalambaaz – my screenwriting lab – and via the Oscar committee, a hallmark of international recognition that I helped initiate for just that,” Iram said.