7 November 2014

The female voice in filmmaking: Met Film meets writer-director Afia Nathaniel

By Cassio | Categorised in News

Dukhtar (Daughter) is a grand adventure film from Pakistan, takes the audience on a roller-coaster ride across the rugged badlands of Northern Pakistan where women are mere chattel that can be bought and sold and where law and order is in the hands of warlords not governments.


The tale centres on one woman’s quest to save her daughter from a fate that she knows only too well. Snatching her 10 year-old daughter from the family home when her husband agrees to her marriage to an aging warlord in order to negotiate a truce, this is a balanced portrayal of a Muslim woman standing up against injustice.


This film is a cinematographer’s paradise with a fantastic backdrop provided by mountainous vistas as mother and daughter try to stay one step ahead of tribal men intent on executing honour killings. The “will they” “won’t they” theme keeps you guessing till the film’s gripping end.



We caught up with Afia Nathaniel, Writer, Director and Producer of Dukhtar, to tell us more about the making of the film, and the inspirations behind it.

This film deals with some controversial topics from everything from child marriage to honour killings. What inspired you to make this film and how has it been received in Pakistan?

The film was really inspired by the story of a mother who runs away from a tribal village.  The actual story was more surreal and harrowing!  So the film is really more of a fictionised take on the original story of her escape.  For me the important thing about making the film was to put across her courage and dignity in the face of impossible circumstances and also to show how she started to attempt to build a new life while she was on the run.  In that sense I think the film is very different from other films made in our country, where it’s more about the ‘song-and-dance’ routine, a very Bollywood style.  However, the film has a very commercial structure so it has been very well received in Pakistan, and there’s also an arthouse audience for it.

And do you think British audiences will reach differently?
I’m looking forward to watching the film with the London audience because it’s a real high.  We’re in the editing suite and working on the film, which can be very insulated, so it’s really a great education to be watching the film with an audience.  I think it will be a learning curve.
Do you see  Dukhtar as representing feminist ideals at it’s heart?
The film is about a very strong woman, so by default comes a feminist conversation.  And i think that’s good because in cinema within Pakistan we don’t have women playing lead roles in films without a male hero supplementing their story.  It’s always about the guy, or a world that caters to a broader male fantasy.
I represent 50% of the population, as a woman.  I wanted to see a woman take the lead.
So was it hard to get the film made, with such ideals about the role of females in film?
It was difficult to get the finance and convince people in the industry to take the film seriously.  It took me 10 years to get the funding!
What background did you have as a filmmaker before Dukhtar?
I worked on films for many years, I learned from the very best of people and also from mistakes made on-set.  And that’s what you do- you get out of film school and you go and learn from people who are more technically advanced than you are, with more experience… that would be my advice for people looking to make their own feature.
Dukhtar had it’s British premiere at the London Film Festival earlier this year.
UK release date TBC.
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