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My Pure Land: When a woman fights back

For a passionate lover of the arts, moving to Dubai was a cultural shock. Though I still feel an ache for the rich historical city Lahore I have found solace in pockets of theatre and cinema here. This Friday was particularly exciting as DIFF: Dubai International Film Festival screened the best movies from all over the world.

The film I was looking forward to the most was My Pure Land – one of Britain’s submissions in the foreign-language film Oscar category, a tense siege thriller shot in Pakistan with dialogue in Urdu.

The cinema was jam packed! For a moment I could not believe it, as I had seen such turnover mostly at Salman Khan’s flicks. An eager and enthusiastic crowd for a film about Pakistan in Dubai was quite a surprise. This clearly meant ‘something’.

Director Sarmad Masud’s low-budget film tells the true story of teenager Nazo Dharejo (Suhai Abro) who raises arms to protect her ancestral home from her male relatives. The film takes a balances approach to storytelling – on one hand flaws in the political system but also features a strong female lead and an inspirational feminist message.

When Nazo’s resistance leaves two men dead, her enraged Mehrban calls in a local ragtag militia – of two hundred armed bandits.

In My Pure Land Nazo’s father (Syed Tanveer Hussain) is a soft hearted yet firm man who believes in his principles. He raises his daughters to believe in honor and equality – a lesson that helps Nazo’s metamorphosis from an uncertain kid to a fierce warrior when her step-uncle Mehrban and his goons attempt to steal their land. In an old fashion Western style gun battle our unlikely hero, her mom and sister are able to defend their right and reach a happy ending.

With zero glamour, a limited budget and absence of a star cast My Pure Land is an example of how powerful story telling transcends everything else. While there were loopholes in the plot and screenplay the attempt to create an impactful cinematic experience that impacts audience was commendable.

First time director Sarmad Masud was beaming at the screening. He was not only welcome to criticism but also extended support to young filmmakers. Since the audience was global, responses were refreshing as even the non desi crowd was able to relate and understand the crux which was director’s main objective.

I hope this film is screened in Pakistan and other Nazos are able to see the real life zeal and vigor of this inspiring young woman who fought back her oppressors.

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