Pakistan’s documentary film on plight of folk artists, music to be screened in Italy, Germany

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By Nasir Aijaz
AsiaN Correspondent

Islamabad: Pakistan’s award-winning documentary film ‘Indus Blues’, which tells about the endangered world of traditional music of the country, is all set to be screened in Italy and Germany next month.

“Indus Blues is all set for its German premiere next month. Coming to the beautiful city of Berlin, our film is officially selected at the prestigious DokuArts – Internationales Festival fur Filme zur Kunst,” Jawad Sharif, Director of the film, announced in a social media post.

He added that the documentary film is slated to premiere on October 11 at Zeughauskino Berlin.

‘Indus Blues’ will also be premiering in Italy on September 27 at the prestigious Festival del Film Etnomusicale 2019.

According to DokuArts’s official website, the 76-minute long documentary tells us about the endangered world of traditional music in Pakistan, a country that not only deals with political and economic problems but also faces a severe identity crisis.

Produced by the Foundation of Arts, Culture and Education (FACE), in association with Bipolar Films, Indus Blues chronicles the story of some of the most precious folk music treasures from the culture of Indus, which are on the verge of disappearance.

It also brings to light the efforts of various Pakistani folk artists, who are striving to keep the dying folk music tradition alive.

“A project very close to my heart, Indus Blues tells the story of some of the most precious folk music treasures from the cultures of Indus which are on the verge of disappearance,” Jawad Sharif said in a statement posted on website of the film.

The musicians associated with these musical instruments are ironically the most prominent figures in their art form but they are barely surviving in a society indifferent to what they have to offer, he added.

“While I strongly believe that this is a story that the entire world needs to be told, urban audiences in Pakistan are surprisingly as unaware of the existence of some of these folk musical instruments as someone more unfamiliar with this culture,” he said.

“However, the reasons driving me to produce this film go far beyond than the disappearance of these folk musical treasures. Perhaps one of the greatest factors that inspired me was the social attitude toward art and music in Pakistani societies.”

There is no doubt that music is a rich and inseparable part of the cultures in Pakistan but the increasingly menacing religious orthodoxy and obscurantism are jeopardizing this beautiful form of creative expression, he added.

“I believe our very civilization is under threat due to the obscurantism imposed by religious indoctrination of the society. The musicians and craftsmen that we have featured in this film have first-hand accounts of harassment and violence at the hands of religious clerics and their followers. Even the makers of this film were physically threatened and obstructed by some miscreants in some of the communities covered.”

According to Jawad Sharif, the religious extremism is just one of the factors behind the decline of folk music in Pakistan. “Problems such as lack of economic sustenance, poor opportunities, low market demand, and lack of government patronage are also primary factors.

Clearly, other factors have been heavily influenced by religious intolerance toward music, resulting in the significant strata of society shunning music because they are taught that it is forbidden and evil. Among the more westernized urban communities, completely disconnected with their ethnic roots though somewhat unaffected by religious extremism, these folk artists stand no chance because they have neither awareness of nor a taste for their form of music.”

Indus Blues is also about the artists responding to hate and intolerance with peace and love. The film also reveals the little-known humanism among the artists and Sufis in Pakistan who are offering a faith platform for arts and music to survive, if not flourish.

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