First international film from Peshawar receives flak for spreading ‘negative image’

A few months ago, Project Peshawar made headlines for being the first international bilingual film to come out of Peshawar. The film recently premiered

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A few months ago, Project Peshawar made headlines for being the first international bilingual film to come out of Peshawar. The film recently premiered in the K-P capital late last month and received a lot of positive feedback. But film-maker Irshu Bangash told The Express Tribune that there have been people from the local entertainment industry who are trying to sabotage the film, claiming that it spreads a negative image of the city and “promotes western values” instead of local cultural values.

Starring Afghan-Dutch actor Shoaib Lodin as the lead, Project Peshawar is based on a true story and revolves around a Pakistani-British who falls in love with a Peshawar-based girl through the internet and travels back to Pakistan for her only to realise that it was merely a trap to capture him. “People, especially youngsters, who like Narcos and similar action films and shows really liked it,” he said. “But a lot of people came to the premiere thinking it was a pure commercial masala movie and therefore they were disappointed.”

He said senior Pashto actors Ismael Shahid and Javed Babar were against the film on the basis that it “showcased a negative image” of the city. “They criticised the film without even watching it. I saw them among few others who walked out during the film, and even went on a TV channel to pass negative comments.” he said. “It’s funny because these are our seniors, yet a lot of vulgar content has been released without any objections because of the lack of censor board.” He added there were others in the local media who were trying to sabotage the premiere as well “because we didn’t allow them to film in the theatre during the premiere. It’s obvious, one can’t allow anyone to record the film on its premiere.”

He added that the film was supported by PTI Tourism Corporation, K-P and they helped with the premiere as well. “Therefore, some anti-PTI people also spoke against the film.”

The film, standing at about 75 minutes, will not be released in theatres because “the exhibitors believe the duration of the film is not suited for release” as per Bangash. This comes as a surprise because the international standard for a film to be considered a feature length (and thus suitable for theatrical release) is 40 minutes and above.

The director still plans to hold more screenings in Peshawar. “We also intend to go to Islamabad within this month and come to Karachi, hopefully, next month.”

In an earlier interview, Bangash shared how they decided to do a film about social media and how it’s misused. “We see it all around us. Even Mashal Khan’s case was elevated due to social media and its power,” said Bangash.

The film was shot one and a half years ago in UK, Holland and Pakistan, with 70% of the production in Peshawar. Musicians including Sajid and Zeeshan, popular local band Khumariyaan, and the duo of Naseer and Shahab have contributed tracks for Project Peshawar.

Published in Express Tribune

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