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13 Oct

Which Pakistani film will make it to Oscars 2021?


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 93rd Academy Awards. The deadline for submission is 20th October at 5 pm (PST).

As per the eligibility criteria, the film must be first released in the country of origin no earlier than October 1, 2019, and no later than December 31, 2020, and be first publicly exhibited for at least seven consecutive days in a commercial motion picture theater for the profit of the producer and exhibitor.

Due to the closure of commercial theaters and cinemas worldwide in the wake of the unprecedented coronavirus global pandemic, there are some changes in the rules. Until further notice and for the 93rd Awards year only, country selected films that had a previously planned theatrical release but are initially made available through a reputable commercial streaming distribution service or video-on-demand platform may qualify for awards consideration in the ‘International Feature’ category for the 93rd Academy Awards. However, the filmmakers have to submit their original document(s) and an English translation of government mandated theater/cinema closure dates, previously planned theatrical release and steaming distribution or video on demand agreements. The film should also meet all other eligibility requirements.


Eligible Pakistani Films


Keeping in view all these conditions, there are not many films available for the Pakistani Oscar Committee to review or select from. Looking back at Pakistani films which were released during the time frame allotted by the Academy Awards, we only have Daal Chaawal, Durj, Kaaf Kangana, Talaash, Betabiyan and Saach from the last quarter of 2019.




Unfortunately, Sarmad Khoosat’s Zindagi Tamasha was banned from its initial release in January 2020, otherwise it would have been an ideal nomination. Other titles which were scheduled to be released in cinemas in 2020 were all postponed due to the pandemic with the exception of Balochabad (I’m not sure if it was screened or not).



A still from Zindagi Tamasha


Now, all eyes are on Nabeel Qureshi and Fizza Ali Meerza’s Quaid-e-Azam Zindabad (QAZ). If they can manage to schedule the film’s release within the deadline i.e. December 2020, they may have a window to participate. However, the decision heavily relies on cinema owners and business prospects.



Fahad Mustafa and Mahira Khan stars in Quaid-e-Azam Zindabad


For an official Oscar submission, a film must be at par with its competition, in terms of its story-telling, production value and technical aspects and it should appeal to global audience. Judging by previous Oscar submissions from Pakistan that include films like Zinda Bhaag, Dukhtar, Moor, Mah-e-Mir, Saawan, Cake and Laal Kabootar, it is tough to find a film for submission this year.

The titles in consideration are either average productions or have sub-par storylines. Zulfiqar Sheikh’s Sacch was filmed overseas and is comparatively a better visual experience than the rest. Durj is a story about cannibalism based on true events, which is an edgy script and Shamoon Abbasi and Sherry Shah have given quite convincing performances as well. Kaaf Kangana is a story of star-crossed lovers with a subplot of Partition stories and Indo-Pak tensions. So if we leave Quaid-e-Azam Zindabad out, the only shortlisted movie which stands a minuscule chance to qualify is Durj.

The Oscar committee for 2020 is chaired by two-time Academy Award and Emmy winning filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and includes Faisal Kapadia (musician), Asad-ul-Haq (director), Maheen Zia and Asim Abbasi, Hamza Bangash (filmmakers), Bee Gul (scriptwriter), Syed Mohammed Ahmed (writer and actor), Mehwish Hayat (actor) and Hassan Sheheryar Yasin (actor and designer). The committee will announce its nomination for award consideration in November 2020.

Which Pakistani film do you think should be nominated for Oscars this year?


Syeda Zehra

The author is Assistant Editor at Something Haute. A journalist by profession, the writer has a penchant for films, fashion and music.