Interview with Filmmaker Zainab Hassan (ZARDA ( Sweet-rice) a local desert in Pakistan)

ZARDA ( Sweet-rice) a local desert in Pakistan, 17min., Pakistan, Drama
Directed by Zainab Hassan
In this slice of life/drama we peek into the life of a young Pakistani teenage girl Shella who comes from a conservative, lower middle-class family but dreams with an open heart. As she is slowly stepping out in the real world, she is fascinated by the ever-changing aesthetic of the modern life. One such occurrence accounts to her looking at a girl getting hair dyed pink, leaving her utterly mesmerized and longing for something like that for herself. Unfortunately, her cultural norms and lack of bodily autonomy renders it impossible until she is forced to realize and challenge these norms and find her own way out.

Get to know the filmmaker:

1. What motivated you to make this film?

Being very aware about my confinement into this socially constructed narrative of genders I’ve always been very sensitive and vocal about issues regarding women. Therefore, personally I always knew I wanted to make a women centric film. Around the time when I was brainstorming for ideas, I read an article in a magazine somewhere about this group of Indonesian women who in Malaka culture were tattooed when they got married, to mark them as “taken”. but after World War 2 some of the single women from that clan tattooed themselves to escape being taken away by Japanese soldiers. So really this idea of taking something which was once used to oppress or put one in a box and to use it as one’s strength, and the spirit to live and flourish in the most unlikely of environments is what inspired me. This central idea then gelled in with my own struggles for bodily autonomy eventually birthed this story.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?

It took me roughly one and half months to complete shooting for this film as it has been shot in intervals.

3. How would you describe your film in two words!?

Honest and simple.

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

To be able to translate the script without changing any of the details due to logistical issues. We had to shoot in four different houses and make them look one, to maintain the aesthetic. We had this scene where we needed colored chicks but it was winter when we were shooting and they weren’t available anywhere so we had to literally wait for weeks and look for them in the entire city until we finally got our hands on a bunch.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

It was honestly exhilarating to look at these people from a different part of the world watching my film and actually talking about and understanding things the way I meant them to be! As a filmmaker, this mere viewing of my film felt like an ultimate achievement!

Watch the Audience Feedback Video:

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

Actually, I have wanted to be a documentarian or a travel journalist since I was a little girl but higher education in those subjects weren’t offered in my country and filmmaking was the closest option. It was in the film school where i fell in love with this art and decided to tell these stories

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

I usually don’t rewatch films as I have this massive list of things that I need to watch but the only film I remember watching twice would be interstellar.

8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?

I’ve had a great experience so far so I’d really like to appreciate that. but for filmmakers like me who can not physically attend these festivals could maybe have some online sessions where they can network and interact with fellow filmmakers and share their works.

9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?

It is amazing how user friendly and accessible FilmFreeway is, it is honestly the perfect platform for new filmmakers like me to have all these awesome festivals lined up for us to choose from!

10. What is your favourite meal?

Damn, how is this the most difficult question so far, well one of my favorite meals would be garlic rice, with beef chili dry.

11. What is next for you? A new film?

I had already shot one short film after Zarda so currently I am editing that, and planning to start shooting my first documentary film.

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By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival www.wildsound.ca

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