By Asna Nusrat
The Panel Discussion followed right after the screening of Beyond the Heights, a film on Samina Baig, which had already left the audience reeling with jolting thrill and immense awe. Shortly afterwards the audience was introduced to Faran Tanveer, the mediator for the discussion which included some extraordinary personalities like Nadeem Karimi, Jawad Sharif, and Atif Saeed.
Nadeem Karimi started of the discussion led by Mr.Tanveer’s inquiry about the “Chicken and Egg dilemma” of adventure and photography. He got the ball rolling on a humorous note with the following few words:
“Pehlay anda aaya tha ya murghi?”.
Karimi then led on from there with the same measure of jest in his voice. He informed the audience that he first belonged to a shepherd family from Hunza. As a toddler, he used to watch a female German photographer busy fiddling with her camera, in the same space as him, a young dreamer, observing his object of aspiration. Was that the point when he decided to become a photographer, or was it the thrill of adventures that provoked him, are questions that still remain unanswered. He said defining “adventure” is a risky business because people usually pin it at the set definition of having experiences in the mountains, or in some far off exotic land. But to him, adventure could range from going hungry for three days straight to photographing people shitting in public. Photography to him was more than just taking plain pictures: it was a passion that burns as brightly even today. It saddened him to state that people steal the originality of nature from photographs by over editing or “making them prettier through Photoshop”.
At this note, Karimi concluded and handed over the microphone to the next speaker, Mr Jawad Sharif. Listening to him was again an invigorating experience because unlike the former speaker, he saw himself more as a filmmaker than an adventurer or aspiring photographer. He was the also the man behind Beyond the Heights that featured Samina Baig, the first Pakistani female to have summit-ed Mount Everest after having conquered several other peaks. Being the brains behind the popular film, Sharif shared his ideas about newer, shorter films that capture the modern audience with their ever decreasing spans of attention for visual content. He said that he has been working on short films (1 to 2 minutes long) that include details as well as coverage yet also manage to compress longer stories into a shorter time frame. When he first had to work with Samina Baig, the star of his masterpiece, he encountered first-hand experience of sitting, trekking, and talking to a person who had emboldened herself enough to reach the highest peaks yet shied away from the apparently harmless lens recording her. This was an experience as astounding for Sharif as was the experience of trekking new for him. But the reality of the situation humanized the heroine, making her achievements seem more attainable and success more realistic.
From him, Tanveer moved on to the third speaker: Atif Saeed. When asked about the object of his motivation, Saeed said that for every person adventure brings to mind some aspect of nature that makes the experience exhilarating, and for him it was heights. The absolute grandeur of mountains and the relative humility of man complementing each other beautifully stood out for Saeed. For him, the primary goal in adventure was personal satisfaction. After that he believed promoting the beauty of Pakistan was a duty that every citizen is liable to. For this purpose, Saeed throughout his speech emphasized the importance of books, exemplifying his choice of medium by comparing it to Quran. What struck me the most while attending his session was when he said:
“Koi banda manzil tak tou kabhi nahi pohanchta. Bus ek safar shuru karne ki baat hai”.
These words summed up the futility of seeking destinations and highlighted the worth of human endeavors. On this note, the enlightening discussion came to an end, leaving the audience with smiles full of bliss and eyes full of dreams.
Following are a few pictures from the festival: