Guest blogger Bart Weiss is director of the 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 Tuesday morning.
Last day in Karachi
Had an early morning radio interview with an English language radio station, which was lots of fun. The DJ was mostly playing American and European music. We talked about the film series, documentaries in general and the film we have been showing, and then he asked us if it was OK to read a diary if you just happen to come upon it. Not what I thought we’d be talking about, but fun.
Next stop was the Szabist Institute of Science and Technology – a new, four-year film school that lots of people are hoping will jump start the Pakistani film community. There once was a strong film school, but after partition, it closed. These kids, many who came to the screening last night, were really excited. We got into some nitty gritty of how a few scenes were filmed and edited. Talked about where the three acts were in the film and how it was structured. We also talked about how to bring the voice of the artist into the film. We asked to seen some student work, and it took a while to get the system working. It seemed like there were tech problems all over the work ( “I swear this was working earlier today!”). One student made a film about a local musician, which was technically fine but was ultimately a dry, journalistic, “here is the info” kind of piece. We heavily critiqued it, and he took it in the right spirit. The next one we saw was about kids who were in prison. It clearly had sophisticated visual style but needed a bit more editing, which we talked about. I think both makers thought the films were done and were shocked that we thought they could be much better with more post time.
Next, we had a small meeting with some of the top filmmakers in Pakistan, who gave us a history of the film industry – once rich, but is now suffering. There are very few theaters and no film infrastructure. They said that TV killed the film biz, and that most of the work is made for TV now. They also talked about how not having a film school stifled the growth of the industry, and how lack of copyright makes if hard for people to make money (apparently everything is bootlegged). We then had a great discussion about fundamentalism, then got back to what could be done to help. We suggested sending films abroad, trying to establish a national film commission and also trying to institute a film fund similar to the ones in Israel and Austria to jump start production.
We had one more screening in the evening, our list in Karachi with TV journalists. The Q&A started out slow – they asked Tricia why she didn’t put in more experts and facts, which they would do in a news piece. Coincidentally, there was somebody in the crowd who had made an 8 min. piece for Pakistani TV on Autism. That led into a very moving dialogue about the difference between documentary film and TV journalism. They admitted that they had felt things after seeing this film that a straight, journalistic style film couldn’t accomplish. I could see the light go on in all of their heads. You can tell they are going to expand a project and create something better. We also talked about classic films to see and how to help inspire each other after we are gone. I am sure that a great film will be made by someone in this group. I’m just not sure when.
So tomorrow we head to Lahore and have to leave the hotel at 5:30 a.m. , so off to sleep for me!