It’s time to have some serious conversation – Paperazzi

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After the downturn in the third wave of COVID 19, activities in the metropolitan of Karachi have started to resume with following all guidelines and SOPs due for global pandemic.

One of it was the three-day Pakistan International Film Festival 2021 Women’s Edition, organized under the banner of the Karachi Film Society from June 11 to June 13 at Frere Hall, the heritage site situated at the heart of the city.

This year, keeping in mind the social distancing and time constraints, the festival was restricted to the workshops and seminars with limited audience comprising of showbiz and media fraternity as well as the founding members of KFS and the media fraternity.

The seminar on Day 1 was on the issue of ‘What is Stopping Our Films from Growing Internationally’ which  attended by Chairman Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting, Senator Faisal Javed Khan. The session was moderated by Kamran Jawaid, a senior film critic while the panel was comprised of Sheikh Amjad Rasheed, Chairman IMGC Group, one of the leading film production and distribution groups in Pakistan; Selina Rashid, CEO of public relations firm, Lotus PR; Irfan Malik, Senior Vice President ARY Group and the current head of ARY Films; and Omer H. Paracha, founder of street-wear luxury brand PARAVAL and an executive producer of film Echo Boomers.

The panel discussed the lack of growth of Pakistani films in the international market and the reasons and challenges behind this slow growth. They also discussed the low return of investment, quality of films, government facilitation, the need to experiment with various genres of film-making and upgrading filmmaking technology and equipment.

Following the panel discussion, Senator Faisal Javed Khan in his keynote speech, stressed on the need to concentrate on the local side of the film industry before discussing the international aspect of it. He said that Pakistan’s film industry needs a minimum of 1,000 screens and at least 100 films a year just to sustain it. He also warned the film-makers not to copy the neighbouring country if they wanted to go global and advised them to present their own ideas to the world. While addressing the government’s incentives and facilitation for the film industry, he informed the audience that Prime Minister Imran Khan has approved an entertainment, film policy which will soon be launched.

The Day 2 of the festival began with a workshop on Fighting Harassment at the Workplace, followed by a panel discussion on Covid-19: Challenges & Opportunities, Understanding the ‘New Normal’.

The workshop on Fighting Harassment at the Workplace was conducted by Xenab Ansari, giving her experience to spread awareness about harassment and teaching attendees how to protect themselves. She also shared her skill-set and knowledge on the subject. Dr. Fouzia Saeed, Director General PNCA and member of the board of governors KFS was the chief guest at the workshop, who also shared her experience on the topic.

The key note speaker on Day 2 of
PIFF was Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry, while
it was also attended by Governor Sindh, Imran Ismail as guest of honour.

The panel discussion on Covid-19: Challenges & Opportunities, Understanding the ‘New Normal’ was moderated by Sidra Iqbal, a celebrated broadcast journalist, and the participant for the discussion included Senator (r) Javed Jabbar, Filmmaker and Intellectual known in the field of media and literature; Dr Fouzia Saeed, a social activist, gender expert, trainer/facilitator, folk culture promoter and author; Ameena Saiyid, Head of publishing company Lightstone, former MD of OUP and founder of Adab Festival; Amin Hashwani, the founder of Charter for Compassion Pakistan, a businessman and a social activist; Dr. Farah Essa Zaidi, Director Radiology at Dr Essa Laboratory & Diagnostic Center ; Duraid Qureshi, Co-Founder and CEO of HUM Network Ltd and Fizza Ali Meerza CEO FilmWala Pictures and an active member of the Executive Body of Pakistan Film Producers Association.

The panel discussed issues and challenges related to Pakistani films and entertainment industry post covid-19, the portrayal of women in Pakistani media, access of the lower and middle class to cinema, the need to establish a digital entertainment platform and challenges in adapting to the new normal since Covid-19.

The Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Fawad Chaudhry, in his speech, commenting on the title of this year’s PIFF, the minister said that men had the upper hand over women for thousands of years but with the advent of technology and public awareness, the gender disparity is gradually lessening. Giving example of his own daughter who wants to be a fighter pilot, the minister said that women now are opting for roles which were once considered unconventional. While expressing his views on the decline of Pakistan Film Industry after the 80s’, the Federal Minister said that the biggest factor was the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. On government facilitation for the film industry, the Federal Minister announced that they were coming up with a film policy which focusses on lessening the electricity charges for cinemas, zero taxes on the film industry and government loan of up to 50 million for film-makers among other amenities. The minister also spoke about the government’s intention of establishing the most advanced and state-of-the-art Pakistan University which will offer courses on journalism, animation, music and other media related fields. The Federal Minister also urged film-makers to focus on Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the Middle East as an alternative to counter lobbies that don’t allow Pakistani content to run on international streaming platforms.

The Pakistan International Film
Festival, Women’s Edition 2021, was concluded with a workshop on ‘Women
Entrepreneurship in a Creative Economy’, followed by a panel discussion on ‘Gender
Stereotypes in Media and What are Women Doing About It?’

The workshop on Women Entrepreneurship in a Creative Economy was conducted by Ashifa Paracha, CEO Brand Advertising, WCCI member and founder of the Pakistan Digital Awards & Corporate Lounge and Sadaf Mahmood, CEO Xiphios Innovations and COO Nutshell Communications. Organized under the umbrella of Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the workshop detailed how women can learn, start and promote businesses in the digital world.

The seminar/webinar on ‘Gender Stereotypes in Media and What are Women Doing About It’ was moderated by Tazeen Hussain, an associate professor and head of the Department of Communication Design at Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture. The panelists present were Sultana Siddiqui, President KFS & HUM Network Ltd; Atiqa Odho, Chairperson of FocusPK, an entrepreneur, social activist and artist; Sangeeta, film director and actor and Tasneem Ahmar, head of UKS Research Centre and executive producer for Meri Awaz Sunno. The chief guest for the panel discussion on Day 3 was Provincial Minister of Sindh for Culture, Tourism, and Antiquities, Syed Sardar Ali Shah.

The panel discussed and addressed the discrimination persisting against women in the media industry. Atiqa Odho said that although these issues do exist in our industry one has to be strong, persistent and vocal about all kinds of discrimination. She also said it was her co-actors (men) who helped her in the field in the beginning of her career. Sultana Siddiqui added that women in the field of media are judged differently than men. It is the need of the time to change the lens through which women are viewed and judged and men and women should learn to co-exist if they want to succeed, she added. The panel also discussed the need to change the mindset of the masses through realistic portrayals of strong and successful women characters, changes required in PEMRA laws and the need to establish strong, independent association to protect the rights of women in media.

The keynote speaker Provincial Minister Syed Sardar Ali Shah began his speech with a tribute to Shaheed Benazir Bhutto who inspired millions of women across the globe. He appreciated the efforts of KFS board members in organizing such meaningful dialogues and assured his government’s support for the film industry. “We can start an initiative to support the film industry within a year if all the stakeholders can come on one page,” he added.

President of KFS, Sultana Siddiqui while addressing the stressed on the need to engage women, especially young blood in the film-making process to learn the finer points of film-making and shed light on the festival’s objectives of providing the aspiring young people with a platform to showcase their talent to the world. Siddiqui also spoke about the portrayal of Muslims and Islam in foreign movies and the need to counter islamophobia in our productions.

The three day event was well conducted by Festival Director
Misbah Khalid.

PIFF Women’s Edition 2021 is supported by KMC, WCCI, PNCA,
PFPA, Azat Films, Mjafferjees, Image, Active Media, Bookitnow.pk, Rinstra,
Ladies Fund and Dice Foundation.