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Our Man in Pakistan: Day 1

by Stephen Becker 13 Jul 2009 1:17 PM

Guest blogger Bart Weiss is director of Video Association of Dallas. He’ll be checking in from Pakistan, where he’s participating in the American Documentary Showcase. He sent in this post over the weekend. We’ll have his next post up shortly. Today was an off day – mostly to catch up on sleep, go to the […]


Guest blogger Bart Weiss is director of Video Association of Dallas. He’ll be checking in from Pakistan, where he’s participating in the American Documentary Showcase. He sent in this post over the weekend. We’ll have his next post up shortly.

Today was an off day – mostly to catch up on sleep, go to the gym.

In the evening we did a presentation at the American Club for people who worked at TV stations in Karachi. Many have done short pieces for their stations but have not had the chance to do longer work.

We started by having them introduce themselves, and they were all working TV people, with the exception of one reporter. I told  him he needed to learn how to make documentaries if he wants to keep his job in the new world of journalism.

Then we showed Autism the Musical and got a great response. While some of the Q&A was similar to any screening, we got into specifics on how certain scenes were set up and cut. There was lots of talk about editing and shooting directed at Autism director Tricia Regan, who shot the film herself. We clearly could have stayed and talked for another hour, but the place was closing and you can’t just go to a bar with the security situation. We would have to get it approved, get a driver and have the place checked out before we went in.

Tomorrow morning we get fully briefed on security, we meet the council general and then we have a four-hour workshop with film professionals, which should be great. I brought along lots of video to show if we have time. That is all for tonight.


P.S. – Here’s a bonus entry about how I got all the way here:

I left Dallas Thursday night, unsure what this adventure would bring.

Click here to watch the video

The first flight from Dallas to London was long and uneventful. In Heathrow Airport I met my travel mate Tricia Regan, who made Autism the Musical – the film we will be showing. We had a nice chat, and it was time to move on to Dubai

I was lucky enough to get booked on business class on the next two legs of this flight. The first one was on this large airbus plane I had been hearing so much about .

The plane

Not sure what coach was like the biz class was well spacious and classy.

Fully-stocked seats

Fully-stocked seats

There is a bar and lounge in business class, which in this plane takes up most of the upstairs level. We sat on the tarmac in London long enough to watch ½ of a feature film, which caused us to be late getting in. Before landing I watched (or, to be more precise, mostly heard  – my eyes were shutting as much as open) W, which spends a long time on why this country went to war. I thought this seemed like a good introduction to the this part of the world.

So we get to Dubai about 1:30 a.m. and find our we have missed our connection, and the next flight out is at 8 a.m. Walking through this airport was bizarre. At 2 , 3 and even 4 a.m. the duty free shops weren’t just open, they were happening. People were buying just about everything imaginable. I found out later that it’s not so much the price, but that they have a selection of goods that are not available to some folks.

Being in biz class, I was able to get into the Emerits lounge, and Tricia got a pass there as well. We tried to sleep on an area with couches and relative darkness, but it was by a security checkpoint that was really cranking it all night.

With little sleep, we make it onto the flight and got to Karachi. While all instructions on the plane were repeated in English, I didn’t see many Americans once we got on this flight.

You've gotta love a plane with a couch.

You've gotta love a plane with a couch.

Landing in Karachi, we eventually got our luggage and were met by Zoobar from the Embassy, who took us out and got us into our first armored car. I expected it to look something like a hummer or tank or something, but it is just an SUV with extra protection. We drove through the streets to the Marriott, passing these beautiful busses and some open air markets.

When we got to the hotel, for security reasons we could not go in the front door. Instead, we used a side entrance. We had to go through a double barricade that looked like we were headed into East Berlin during the Cold War. There are barricades all over town. To get into the hotel, we had security meet us and we had to show our passports.

I am starting to understand about living in a bubble. While we are here, we have to stay in the hotel while not doing official business. We have full armored vehicles (FAV) pick us up and take us everywhere we need to go, that is if the regional security officer (RSO) allows us. This is not only true for us but for people who work in the embassy. They have drivers in FAVs pick them up in the morning and take them home. We had a nice dinner with our Public Affairs Officer (PAO – there are many acronyms to learn) and a friend who is the IT guy at the Embassy. It was a Japanese restaurant, so our first food in Pakistan was sushi. Juan the IT guy had been at a Marriot in Jakarta (I think I got that right) when a bomb went off. Many died, he survived only because he was not in the front of the restaurant. And here at the Marriott we are not allowed to eat in the main restaurant, because it is on the ground floor level and we might not survive a bomb.

Later at the restaurant, I needed to go to the bathroom. After getting up, our security guy had to walk me there and check the stall before I could go in. That was a bit spooky.

The dinner was great, the conversation was informative and I am looking forward to the rest of the trip.

  • Learn a lot, have fun and come back safely to tell us all about your adventures.

  • You are in my homeland, how lovely. While there are no bars in the country (with the exception of foreign embassies, I suppose), a trip to a coffee place, perhaps at your hotel, would work.

    Best of luck! This is so exciting!