TRANSGENDERS-PAKISTAN’S OPEN SECRET / Sharmeen Obaid-Chonoy / PAKISTAN
Many among Pakistan’s transgender community scrape a living through dancing, singing and begging on the streets of Karachi. Others earn money catering for the sexual needs of men in the city’s seedier districts. Thrown out by their families as children, they usually find their way to the tougher parts of the city where, hidden from the conservative mainstream, groups of outcast transsexuals have come together to create underground communities or ‘families’. This film follows the stories of three transgender people, each of whom represents a different way of life in the country. Maggie is a prostitute who dreams of becoming an air hostess, while Chahat was abandoned to the streets by her middle-class family for her feminine ways. Sana is Karachi’s most sought-after transgender dancer, who wants to give up the profession after a particularly gruesome gang rape. Transgenders were until very recently not entitled to Pakistani nationality. They still have scant access to education, employment or state protection, and are frequently victims of violence, although most of Karachi’s population tolerate them, partly due to beliefs that they can give blessings towards a happy and successful life and, equally, the threat that they may curse those who treat them badly. But there is hope: the local tax office has advertised for transgenders to work as tax collectors. Clever government officials have realised that the embarrassment factor of a group of encountering a multi-coloured singing she-males is enough to make even the most stubborn tax evaders pay up. Can Sana get one of those jobs? Will Chahat ever escape the desperate poverty she faces on a daily basis? And will Maggie fulfil her dream to fly away?
NO MAN’S LAND / Michael Graversen / DENMARK, UK
Every year hundreds of children and teenagers from Afghanistan, Iran and Ethiopia have left their family and parents and travelled alone to Denmark in the hope to get asylum. The kids are sent to special centers for lone asylum-seeking children where they wait for years before their case is processed. The kids find themselves in what seems to be an endless Limbo and spend their time alone or with other kids who have been rejected, given asylum or waiting. The ones who have been rejected have to wait until they are 18 years before they can be sent back. Daily tension and frustration is being projected on to the staff that themselves are being affected by the stressful conditions. They care for the kids but ultimately can’t help them. The film is an intimate and observational portrait of the life, waiting and frustrations at the center. The camera is travelling between different rooms and situations; in the corridors a boy is sitting with his head in his hands and with noticeable psychological damage from the waiting. At night the loneliness comes out but at the same time there is a glimpse of hope in a boy who is reaching out and chatting to a Danish girl on a dating site on the internet. Life is unfolding at the Centre while the staff is preparing to give a difficult rejection to three boys who have been waiting for their final verdict for several years – a rejection that has fatal consequences for the boys and creates an aggressive response that affects the whole Centre.
BENEATH HEAVEN / Logan Mucha / AUSTRALIA
An exploration of how childhood abuse can affect a person for life. Cynthia recounts an unexpected face-to-face encounter with her abuser years after the fact. One night on Christian youth camp, six-year-old Cynthia wanders into the woods with an unknown teenager. She wakes up naked, having been sexually assaulted and abandoned during the night. Plagued with guilt and a loss of faith, she reunites with her assailant 17 years later in a chance meeting. Is forgiveness a moral choice or simply her responsibility to God?
Great support director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy contributed to premiere first displayed award winning film “SAVING FACE“, for which he received the American Oscar 2012.
The director paid tribute to the International Film Festival “Human District” premiere.
In Pakistan, a woman’s face is deemed to be her greatest asset. Someone seeking to punish a woman need only destroy her face to do her permanent harm — both physically and socially. Saving Face exposes how acid attacks affect women in Pakistan, including Zakia, whose husband attacked her outside a courthouse when she filed for divorce, and Rukhsana, whose spouse attacked her in the marital home where she still lives because she cannot afford to care for her children alone. The film focuses on one courageous man trying to help this community, Dr. Mohammad Jawad. A plastic surgeon originally from Pakistan and now practicing in London, he explains: “It makes me very angry. I don’t want to hear these stories anymore.” Zakia not only benefits from Dr. Jawad’s treatment, she also goes to court to prosecute her husband for her attack. She becomes the first case tried under a new law in Pakistan that punishes perpetrators of acid attacks with life imprisonment. Saving Face highlights the medical and legal responses to this horrific problem, and the generous spirit of Dr. Jawad, who offers a glimmer of hope for women who are otherwise ‘dead’ to society.
SHARMEEN OBAID CHINOY is an Academy Award and Emmy Award winning documentary filmmaker. Her films include SAVING FACE, TRANSGENDERS: PAKISTAN’S OPEN SECRET, PAKISTAN’S TALIBAN GENERATION, which aired on PBS, Channel 4, CBC, SBS and Arte and was the recipient of the Alfred I Dupont Award as well as The Association for International Broadcasting award. Sharmeen has made over a dozen-multi award winning films in over 10 countries around the world and is the first non-American to be awarded the Livingston Award for best international reporting. Time Magazine has named Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy within their 2012 TIME 100, the magazine’s annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world. In 2007, Sharmeen was awarded the broadcast journalist of the year award in the UK by One World Media for her work in a series of documentary films for Channel 4, which included a film about xenophobia in South Africa THE NEW APARTHEID. Her other films have been awarded The Overseas Press Club Award, The American Women in Radio and Television Award, The Cine Golden Eagle award and the Banff Rockie Award. Sharmeen has worked on 16 films for major networks in the UN.
You can download catalogue of Human District International Film Festival 2014 here.