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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 2 July, 2002, 15:12 GMT 16:12 UK
Digital film tells of divided Pakistan
Baqir Khani, the gangster (played by Arif Hassan) gives his state of the nation speech
Sinister characters emerge in The Long Night
Delving into the dark underbelly of the city of Karachi, The Long Night is Pakistan's first digital feature film.

The story provides glimpses into modern day Pakistan and shows what happens when a rich office worker takes a wrong turn into the hostile world of Karachi at night.

Shown at this year's Commonwealth Film Festival, in Manchester, the film was written by BBC World Service journalist, Mohammed Hanif.

In an interview for BBC News Online, he explained how he aimed "to go beyond the headlines and celebrate the city".

Digital departure

Filmed entirely at night, The Long Night (Raat Chali Hai Jhoom Ke) has been described by critics as "beautifully shot" and "streets ahead of the industry's staple fare".

Nadia Jamil and Faisal Rehman
A dangerous liaison takes Waleed deep into the city night
Lollywood, Lahore's answer to Bollywood, has a reputation for producing 35mm, three-hour long films, based on Hollywood themes.

However, in a new departure this film was made digitally and lasts just 94 minutes.

"Hardly any film's come out of Pakistan," Hanif explained.

"What we are trying to do is to provide a window rarely seen in Pakistani films and not at all outside of the country."

Reality

Combining well known actors with new faces, Hanif and first time film director, Hasan Zaidi, created a tale that tells of what happens when two diametrically-opposed worlds collide.

Waleed, a successful businessman is tempted to visit a woman in a shady area of town.

Against his better judgement, late one night he travels to suburban Malir where he experiences the realities of a Karachi that he barely knew existed.

Faisal Rehman plays Waleed
Waleed crosses the bridge that divides Karachi
Describing the cosmopolitan central character, Hanif explained: "This man was more likely to know about what happened in New York or London, rather than what happened in his own city.

"He may have read about violent turf wars in the news papers, but this shows what can happen when you take a wrong turn into another world."

As a journalist, Hanif has lived and worked in the southern city of Karachi. Having written and produced plays for radio, his current day job finds him writing for the BBC's Urdu service in London.

"I write impartial and objective reports for eight hours a day," he explained.

"But with storytelling I don't need to be objective. I write about places and characters that I know intimately; it's a good release."

Reaction

Eagerly anticipating reviews from the film's UK screening, Hanif explained how problems of censorship have prevented the film from being released nationally in Pakistan.

Reaching a limited audience at local Pakistani arts festivals, the writer explained how, with some trepidation, he watched the audience's reaction.

He is confident that "despite being localised," the story will now "transcend".

"I was worried in case people didn't laugh at my jokes, but luckily they did," he explained.

"I was also pleased when it generated a discussion about the divided nature of the city and how it should be represented."

The Commonwealth Film Festival is held in Manchester from 28 June to 7 July.

See also:

02 Jun 00 | South Asia
26 Oct 00 | Entertainment
02 May 02 | Country profiles
01 Jul 02 | Entertainment
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