The Fukuoka Film Festival Audience Award Winner – BOL [speak up] Audience Award for the 23rd Focus on Asia Film Festival was announced last night and the recipient was BOL [speak Up]. Shoaib Mansoor’s 159 minute epic is based on the last testament of a woman awaiting the death penalty. It tackles some weighty social issues and the director was on hand for (an all-to-brief) post-award ceremony press conference to talk a little about the how’s and why’s.
Fukuoka Film Festival Audience Award Winner – BOL [speak up]
How do you feel after winning the Audience Award?
Well I’m very excited. You can well imagine the excitement of somebody who has only made two films in his life. And both films came here to Fukuoka and won awards. It’s a very rare achievement so I’m very happy. I’m very thankful to the people of Fukuoka who like my work. Hopefully I’ll be coming here again.
What was the message that you wanted to express through this film?
As I said I wasn’t very excited about this film because I don’t make films to win awards or to win critical praise. My main purpose is to improve my society through my films. I want to educate my people. There are so many things that they are doing wrong and as a result they are suffering. So my main purpose in making films is to educate people. That is why sometimes in my films there are a lot of explanations, answers to questions and to problems. I don’t just raise questions. I think it is the duty of the filmmaker who is making such films to offer answers to people. Just raising questions is not enough. It could be enough in countries where people are very aware and educated. But in countries like mine where people are not very educated it’s essential to educate them. Not raise questions but to show them a way. They may not agree right now but in times to come, maybe the next generation may find these answers appropriate.
How was your experience of working in television? Did you take on similar projects to your films?
When I was working in television I was mainly aiming at entertainment. I did music, I did shows, I did comedy, plays and drama also. My main goal was to entertain people. It was after leaving television that I realized that life was going away and that the lives of my people weren’t changing really. I had to play a role really. Unfortunately the Pakistani film industry had gone down a lot. So another purpose of my going into films was to revive the film industry in Pakistan. The second most important thing to consider is that I feel television is a very consumable commodity. It just vanishes very quickly. Film has a larger impact and a longer life. So I selected films to extend my message to people.
You ask that your face not be shown in any media if possible. Could you explain your decision for this?
Actually the reason is not for any fear of being recognized. I have a much bigger message for the youth of my country. I want them to realize the importance of work over fame. I want to tell them that despite avoiding fame and being behind the scenes you can contribute through your work and to the betterment of society. So the message to younger people is to concentrate on your work rather than showing their faces and getting famous.
What part of your film would you like audiences to pay attention to most?
All of it. Actually as I said this film is not for an international audience. I made it for Pakistanis. It is my people who are doing those wrongs [expressed in the film] that I want them to correct. So it’s good also that outside Pakistan, in Japan and in the countries that BOL was released people have appreciated it, understood it and tried to feel the pain that Pakistani women are going through. Mainly the film concentrates on the conflict that is taking place between two classes. One class in Pakistan has already undergone change and the other class is resisting that change and is trying to keep their society backward. This conflict is really the subject of the film. The father, who is the main figure in the film, represents the fundamentalist class, the class that is regressive, that wants to keep the society backward. While the elder daughter is representing the class who wants to go ahead, to progress, to get education, to be able to work and not to be restricted to their homes. This is the subject of the film.
Interview by Kenjo McCurtain