Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
SAIFF ’13: Anima State
is cheap in Pakistan. Toting a gun will
not raise any eyebrows, but a camera will quickly attract suspicion. This
grimly ironic reality provided the initial germ of inspiration for Hammad Khan’s
defiantly outraged Anima State (trailer here), which will have
its world premiere at the 2013 South Asian International Film Festival.
face is bandaged like the Invisible Man.
Do not bother asking the Stranger’s name or backstory. What matters is that he is angry and armed.
He is about to embark on a killing spree, but it will not raise much of a fuss.
Unsatisfied with his mounting body count, he resolves to commit suicide if he
can find a large enough audience. An
anchor for a nakedly propagandistic news network is happy to oblige. However, the ostensive journalist’s leading
questions about America, Britain, and India are not taking the opening interview
where the Stranger wants it to go.
none of that really happened. Maybe the
Stranger was really the product of an unnamed filmmaker’s subconscious. While the cops were content to let his armed-and-dangerous
alter ego walk about freely, they instinctively clamp down on someone
apparently engaged in either art or journalism.
you see an angrier film than Anima State this
year, it certainly was not because Khan lacked conviction. Time and again, he calls out contemporary
Pakistani culture for normalizing violence and misogyny. Frankly, the film inspires real world concerns,
particularly for Malika Zafar, the bold actress playing the “Archetypes of
Woman,” including a battered wife and a prostitute, whose sexual confidence
causes the Stranger no end of angst.
is no getting around Anima’s ragged
edges, but there is power in its grunginess.
Produced with the revenue generated by Khan’s relatively apolitical Slackistan (which was banned in Pakistan
nonetheless), Anima represents
independent filmmaking at its most independent.
Khan has a lot to say about the nexus between the government and the
media and how they scapegoat youtube videos and the like. He clearly admonishes Pakistan to look inside
rather than outside for the source of its woes, which is never a well received
The mere fact that Khan successfully followed
through on the concept of Anima is a tribute
to him and his cast and crew. If at
times it is a bit confusing or overindulges in the surrealist vibe, then so be
it. A bracing indictment of institutionalized
intolerance, Anima State is a
must-see for anyone concerned about the future of cinema in Pakistan and the
wider Islamic world. Recommended for
those who can handle its rough aesthetic and truth-telling essence, it
premieres this Wednesday (12/4) at the SVA Theatre as part of this year’s
Labels: Pakistan, SAIFF '13