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Our Man in Pakistan: On to Lahore


by Stephen Becker 16 Jul 2009

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 and the pictures above late Wednesday night. This morning, we moved from Karachi to Lahore, and what a difference a plane ride makes. Karachi […]

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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 and the pictures above late Wednesday night.

This morning, we moved from Karachi to Lahore, and what a difference a plane ride makes. Karachi was nice, the people were great, but the sky was a bit murky, there was rubble all around and it was clear we were in a third-world country. Lahore is beautiful. There is green everywhere and it is landscaped, the sky is at least two stops brighter and, while there are checkpoints, it don’t seem as tight.

And as an extra bit of luck, we had some issues with where we were supposed to be staying and got bumped in to a nice hotel.

We did a longish workshop this afternoon in a film school set up but a man who has made many films. The students work as interns and learn, somewhat similar to what Burnt Orange Productions in Austin tried to do.

Click here to watch a short video of us erecting a screen at the school.

I have come to believe that my role is different than I first thought. I thought we were here to get Pakistanis to like Americans and understand us more and have more empathy for us as a people. What I am finding is that most of the folks who come already like us (who knows how many checkpoints they had to pass to get to the screening). What we have done a great job with is turning around their idea of what a documentary can be. What they mostly do is TV journalism – here are the facts, here are my experts, there you learned something kind of work. They care about smooth camera work and flow but have no background in the the cinema verite classics or the kind of films they represent. They’ve seen Triumph of the Will but not Night and Fog.

They haven’t seen Robert Flaherty, the Maysles Brothers or D.A. Pennebaker and the rest of them. So they need us to take them beyond how and why to make a film and into how to make it more engaging and more than just information. Tricia’s film does a great job with that, and we discussion how and, more importantly, why she shot things a certain way. At each stop, I am totally convinced that these people will make films differently after this visit. And with the  emergence of film schools here in Pakistan, this will have an impact on the TV and cinema worlds. Hey – until recently there was only government controlled TV with three channels. Now, it has been opened up to many channels of mostly talk shows. When these kids get to workl for these channels, we will see some major impact.

After the session, we had a great dinner at a traditional Pakistani restaurant. I felt like a tourist at a Mexican restaurant at home, but then I looked and there were mostly locals there. There were so many kinds of chicken – all awesome – great sauces  and breads. No alcohol of course. And Pakistanis mostly eat very late here, like 11 p.m.  Oh, and there were great deserts as well.

Click here for a quick video look into a Pakistani kitchen.

All and all, another great day (except I’m getting a bit of a head cold and running out of energy). But I’m having a ball.

Bart

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