Islamabad:It would not be wrong to say that Pakistan is the land of all extremes. One good example is that fact that on one hand, we are pondering deep to understand reasons behind the fall of Pakistan film industry where as on the other hand, a young Pakistani boy is winning laurels for his short film in the international film market and not many people know about that.
We are talking about ‘Heal’, a short film that has never been shown in Pakistan. Written and directed by Mian Adnan Ahmad, ‘Heal’ will be honoured with the ‘Frank Capra Award’ at a film festival in Fallbrook California this April. Frank Capra Award is the festival’s highest award given to the film that best uplifts the human spirit, as Capra’s films did so eloquently.
‘Heal’ tells the story of a young boy whose special gifts enable him to help his beloved teacher rise above the shattering effects of the conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan to recapture hope. The short film also shifts the spotlight from war politics and terrorism in Afghanistan to the long forgotten angle that there are men, women and children living in those areas that have their feelings, emotions and urge to live in peace.
Originally written by Adnan for a thesis project at Chapman University, the story revolves around an Afghan boy Azeem, who possess supernatural powers of healing. The orphan boy, despite ongoing war in his area, never misses his school. The war destruction and misery failed to supersede his urge to appreciate the nature, a lesson he learnt from his teacher, Abdul Kaka.
One day, when he stayed home to complete his homework instead of attending a wedding, his village was attacked by a missile killing his mother and many loved ones. The scenes of devastation made a small part of the whole story, but they were filmed so skilfully that they gave an everlasting impact to the minds of audience.
The boy lost everything, but still he wanted to save his teacher and his school as it may be was the only hope of better future for him. Abdul Kaka was dying and Azeem was not able to arrange any medical help for him. It was then when the boy realised his healing power and made his teacher to recover, but he himself died in the process.
In one of his interviews with ‘The News’, Adnan said that his experiences while making a documentary on children affected by a major earthquake that hit Pakistan gave him a real glimpse of what destruction could do to children. “This along with a constant awareness of the conflict the region is in today and seeing the hunger for education in the rural areas formed the basis for my need to tell a story such as ‘Heal’,” he said.
Adnan said that he always wanted to write a story about a boy with supernatural powers. He said that combining his concept with the conflict situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s border area was a real challenge but it worked out well at the end. “As a team of young filmmakers we were motivated to tell a story that allowed audiences to connect at a human level with people living in these areas of conflict and ‘Heal’ provided us with an opportunity to achieve the same.” He said that ‘Heal’ is based on a short story he wrote during his first year at Chapman. “Over the period of time with input from the faculty and fellow filmmakers, it developed into the short film it is today. It was an ambitious project to start with, but with the talents and commitment of everyone, backed by the support of our key faculty and people from the local Afghan and Pakistan communities, we hope that ‘Heal’ justifies that ambition.”
Adnan said that Frank Capra was a multiple Oscar winning director himself. “It’s a great feeling as a Pakistani to be associated with his work. I am hoping to be able to make it and receive the award in person,” he added.
The short film has already brought pride for the country as it was nominated in five categories at the annual CECIL Awards ceremony held in the US, winning in four, including ‘best picture’. ‘Heal’ was also one of only six films selected for an exclusive screening as part of the First Cut showcase being held at the Directors Guild of America (DGA) headquarters in Los Angeles, USA.
The short film was also screened at the Oscar eligible 34th Cleveland International Film Festival March 2010 in the US where it won the Jesse Epstein Humanitarian Award. Other than this, from among 152 short films, it received the second highest number of votes in the Audience Choice award category. It was competing against some really good films, including the Oscar nominated short film Miracle Fish.The news