Amidst a general global scepticism about Pakistan’s commitment to fight against terror, the country has started exporting ideas, innovations, creativity and message of peace through film and fine arts. Pakistani and Iranian peace activists and filmmakers conceived the idea of Asia Peace Film Festival (APFF). Nine countries of Asia later endorsed this and now APFF has become a consortium of 10 countries including Iran, Iraq, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea, Japan, China, Singapore, Lebanon and Pakistan. The first-ever APFF was held at the Pakistan National Council of the Arts from September 18-20 attracting a number of filmmakers, artists, animators, performers, media wizards, parliamentarians, academics, social activists and students from several countries of Asia. It was a unique gathering of creative community and opinion leaders from the region presenting a cultural kaleidoscope of Asia. Artists from following Asian countries participated in the festival; Afghanistan, India, Japan, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, South Korea, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey, Sri Lanka and Australia. They were united to share their interest in political, historical and cultural topics specifically related to local, international, past and present conflicts. The festival was organised by APFF and the Pakistan National Council of the Arts with support from the Ministry of Information, Broadcasting & National Heritage. Its main objective was to celebrate the World Peace Day. The other objective was to support the common vision of Asia on the situation of human rights and other challenges being faced by the 60 per cent of the total global population. Minister for Interior Ahsan Iqbal inaugurating the Art Exhibition at Asia Peace Film Festival The three-day festival featured more than 100 films from China, South Korea, Bosnia, Turkey, Hong Kong, Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Iraq and Malaysia. It included inaugural session, regular film screenings, parallel screenings and panel discussions, art and institutional exhibitions and grand finale. The spread of films screened at the festival include short films, animation films, documentary films and micromentaries. Every winner was granted with a cash prize of $2,000 while a film fund was also established to provide $10,000 to support those filmmakers who could not execute their ideas due to lack of funds. For award winning films please see the box. The first ever APFF is a trailblazing initiative in the region which brought diverse sectors, actors and audiences together in one city, under one roof creating an exciting ambiance of diffusion of diversities; presenting intricate expressions of multi-cultural panorama; and forging an intense sense of togetherness through fine arts, film, creativity and innovations. Convener Amjad Bhatti acknowledging the efforts of APFF team for organising the successful festival Information, Broadcasting & National Heritage Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb participated as the special guest at the curtain raiser ceremony of the festival. Speaking on the occasion, she said no one else could understand the importance of peace more than Pakistan. “Because, we have been fighting a war against terrorism for decades and we have suffered a lot both economically and socially,” Maryam Aurangzeb said adding that the first ever national film and broadcasting policy would be announced within the next month which would introduce initiatives to promote film production and screening in Pakistan. Minister for Interior and Minister for Planning, Development & Reforms Ahsan Iqbal formally inaugurated the APFF and Art for Peace Exhibition at the Art Gallery. He initiated the peace work by writing a message of peace on the canvas with the promise of peace and harmony at the PNCA. The festival proved to be a place for interaction with the Asian creative community and a place for subjective conversations and exhibition of artworks. Abdul Wahab Bin Hamzah, a Malaysian filmmaker, was of the view that the APFF was the very important moment in the Asian timeline. “It would play an important role in delineating a new narrative in the context of Pakistan and peace and the Asian region,” he said suggesting that Asians needed more films to create better understanding of the multifaceted challenges faced by them. Information Secretary Ahmed Nawaz Sukhera, chief guest at the occasion, with award winners at the grand finale APFF project manager Izza Khan said that the festival was a continental communicational forum of visual, artistic, aesthetic and cultural inter-subjectivity of Asian societies and it intended to contribute to the idea of peace, tolerance, respect and understanding among Asian countries through film making and interactive cultural exposure. Setyorini Sophia, an Indonesian filmmaker and member of APFF selection committee, highlighted the role that intellectuals, filmmakers and activists need to play for promoting the message of peace. “We have a diverse team. They come from different cultural backgrounds. Most of them have visited Pakistan for the first time to attend this festival. We want you all to see Asia through the ideas of these film makers,” she said adding that she was taking back with her beautiful memories of the people she met during her stay in Pakistan. The festival was organised with support from the Ministry of Information, Broadcasting & National Heritage. Its main objective was to celebrate the World Peace Day. The other objective was to support the common vision of Asia on the situation of human rights and other challenges being faced by 60% of the total global population APFF Technical Director Yasir Qureshi, explained the reasons behind ban of three films selected from Pakistan. “‘Sepoy Didar Ali’, ‘Jawaar’ and ‘Rang Raaz’ were banned. ‘Jawaar’ portrays the mental condition of a common man who is living in violent surroundings of Lyari. ‘Sepoy Didar Ali’ tells the story of a deceased Ismaili Soldier from Gilgit-Baltistan as well as his community who sacrificed their lives in the fight against extremism. And ‘Rang Raaz’ is a story of a Hindu-Muslim couple who elope one night in Pakistan,” Yasir said lamenting the fact that these films were banned because these raised the issue of discrimination faced by religious minorities in Pakistan. Amjad Bhatti, convener of the festival, demanded to amend or kill the motion pictures ordinance, which was promulgated during the Zia regime. “We are planning to present some policies, rules and regulations for upcoming Film Broadcasting Commission of Pakistan,” the convener is reported to have said. The other part of APFF was an exhibition and panel discussions that invited Asian artists to reflect on their perceptions on peace, harmony, reconciliations, conflict-mediation and dialogue through contemporary art pieces. PANEL DISCUSSIONS The theme for panel discussion co-hosted by the Centre for Culture & Development – Pakistan (C2D) was ‘Peace in Asia: Locating Common Grounds through Cultural Dialogue’. The discussion was chaired by Dr Nadeem Omar Tarar with Wang Shan as co-chair. Panellists included; Rajesh Chandra Joshi, Culture Reporter from India; Dr Safdar Sohail from Pakistan; Fatimeh Hassan Zaday, an Irani filmmaker and peace activist based in Turkey; and Asmutallah Naizi from PTV. Rajesh Chandra Joshi said that Pakistan and India shared similar cultures and traditions. “We have common icons like Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Ghalib, Allama Mohammad Iqbal and many others,” Joshi said adding that a selective focus on history would not be beneficial either for India or Pakistan. Fatimeh Hassan Zaday discussed the success of Iranian cinema in recent years. She explained that Iranian cinema was once known only for entertainment and business. “Somehow it has found its way to represent social problems, class contradictions in the society,” Fatimeh said emphasising that it was the responsibility of artists and filmmakers to highlight these flaws and biased perceptions by using the medium of cinema. Panel discussion on ‘Addressing Gender Discrimination’ co-hosted by CARE International was chaired by Zartasha Niazi with Sahra Karimi, film director and scriptwriter from Afghanistan, as co-chair. Other panellists included Komeil Soheili, filmmaker from Iran and a peace activist; Hassnain Hani Imran, Head of Karbla Channel Network, Iraq; Abdul-Wahab Hamza, a film critic and representative of Creative Content Industry Recognition (CCIR) Malaysia; Anne Demi-Geore, lecturer on Asia Pacific Cinema at Griffith Film School, Australia; Fatimeh Hassan Zaday and Maria Sayyed, a painter and filmmaker from India. Baacha Khan Trust Educational Foundation (BKTEF) co-hosted a panel discussion titled ‘Indigenous Model of Peace Education and the Use of Film and Audio-Visual Aids’ which was chaired by Khadim Hussain, Managing Director BKTEF with Sayyad Jalal Ruhani, filmmaker from Afghanistan, as co-chair. Panellists included; Imran Khan, Wagma Feroz and Merve Cirisoglu Cotur. Afghan filmmaker Sahraa Karimi sharing her thoughts at the festival Merve Cirisoglu Cotur is an award-winning animation director, an illustrator, a scriptwriter, a 2D animator and a mathematician. She shared the story of her animation ‘The Box’ with the audience. Through this film she has portrayed the life of a Syrian kid displaced by war. United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) co-hosted the discussion on Human Rights & Cinematography. Panellists included; Sahraa Karimi, filmmaker; Jean-François Cautain, ambassador of the European Union Delegation to Pakistan; Kanzul Fatima, filmmaker; Vittorio Cammarota, Director United Nations Information Centre; and Christine Chung, Human Rights Officer, OHCHR. Minister of Informaton Broadcasting & National Heritage Marriyum Aurangzeb inaugurating the Asia Peace Film Festival Dil Say Pakistan co-hosted the discussion titled ‘Trans-media Story-telling and Peace-building’ which was chaired by Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi, a peace activist and the director of Hive, with Boopathy Wickramage, a filmmaker from Sri Lanka, as co-chair. Panellist included; Nasrin Moradi, a renowned actress from Iran; Haroon Rashid, singer and the founder/CEO of Unicorn Black; Abrar Hussain, film maker and CEO of Morango Film; Touseeq Haider, TV anchor, host, producer, founder and CEO of Black Box. Centre of Excellence for Gender Studies co-hosted the discussion on ‘Living through Traditions’ which was chaired by Anee Demy-Geroe (Vice President of the Network for the Promotion of Asia Pacific Cinema (NETPAC). Panellists included; Maria Sayyed, director Chadala; Atimah Ihsan; Tazeen Bari, and Shiraz Haider. Renaissance through Social Innovation, Pakistan co-hosted the discussion on Counter Narrative to Extremism and On Campus Engagement that was chaired by M Ayub Ayubi, Executive Director of Renaissance Foundation for Social Innovation, Pakistan, with Ken Deng as co-chair. Panellists included; Sehar Tariq, Dr Khalid Zaheer, Professor at LUMS, and Komeil Soheili. The first Asia Peace Film Festival concluded on Wednesday amidst joys and tears. The award winners were overwhelmed by the sudden announcements from the Juries while some international delegates were carried away by their emotions as they delivered their final speeches at the closing ceremony. The Federal Secretary for Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage Ahmed Nawaz Sukhera was the chief guest on the occasion. “Prosperity comes from peace and we need to focus on developing peace initiatives across Asia to harness social harmony and economic growth,” he said adding that the success of the festival showed that Pakistan could lead large-scale initiatives and also could host international delegates without any doubts and fears. ‘Marry Mother’, ‘Water’, and ‘Sa’ad’s Olive Tree’ won best awards in the short film category. The Chinese documentary `Long Yearning’ was declared the best; while an animation film from Japan `Story Of My Motorbike’ won the award. The other best animations were ‘The Edge’, ‘The Tree’, ‘The Box’ and the ‘Impulse’. The Iranian film `In The Mediterranean Arm’ won the best in the micromentary category. The other nominations were ‘Playing House’, ‘Cube’, ‘Hanging’, ‘Chirapajas’ and ‘Golden Egg’. Published in Daily Times, September 30th 2017.