Made in Pakistan
These days, political analysts on both sides of the aisle are calling Pakistan a failed state. While the “most dangerous place in the world” does face profound political and social turmoil, such sweeping commentary fails to capture the more personal intricacies of the lives of ordinary people living inside the country’s borders. Pakistan is more than the Taliban fighters implementing Sharia law in the Swat Valley, and it’s more than the frequent bombings of embassies and hotels from Islamabad to Karachi. As a way of countering the predominant fundamentalist image of Pakistanis constructed by the global media, filmmaker Nasir Khan recently released a poignant documentary that defies stereotypes and sheds light on some of the common challenges faced by citizens with lofty and patriotic ambitions.
Made in Pakistan presents the way a new generation of young leaders negotiates the conflicting pulls of consumerism, family, politics, gender, religion, and traditionalism. The film follows four educated, upper middle class, young Pakistanis in Lahore—a working mother, a lawyer, an event/PR manager, and a politician—from General Pervez Musharraf’s declaration of a state of emergency and military takeover in November 2007 to former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s assassination in January 2008. Waleed Khalid is a lawyer and professor at the Pakistan College of Law. He is a devout, but not uncritical, Muslim who has joined others employed in the judicial system to protest government corruption, in part fueled by American aid. In addition to raising her son, Rabia Aamir is the editor of The Fourth Article, a newly established magazine by and for politically savvy Pakistani youth. Aamir is a cultural activist who wants to find solutions to the political, social, and spiritual upheaval in the country. These two characters were the ones with whom I felt most sympathetic.
On the other hand, we have Tara Mahmood, a girl for whom the whole world is one big party waiting to happen, and she’s the one organizing it. Tara provides a lot of comic relief to an otherwise weighty film (at one point she says, "Alcohol is not banned here; it is just not legally sold."), and I was particularly moved when finally given the chance to see beyond her bubbly veneer. By contrast, duplicitous politician Mohsin Warraich provides an ominous, slimy representation of modern Pakistan: The film doesn’t have an outright villain, but if it did he’s be the one. Made in Pakistan is a compelling view of the immense contradictions of modern Pakistani society.
Review by Mandy Van Deven
Originally published in Bitch Magazine