- The Pakistani-Canadian horror film “In Flames” directed by Zarrar Kahn premieres at Cannes, making it the first horror movie from South Asia to be submitted to the Director’s Fortnight event.
- The film explores the oppressive reality of patriarchy in Pakistan, using supernatural horror to depict the constant surveillance experienced by women.
- Inspired by French female directors, Kahn transforms Pakistan’s patriarchal reality into a menacing demonic threat, highlighting the discrimination faced by women and their struggle for justice.
In Flames is a Pakistani-Canadian horror film which has been directed by Zarrar Kahn. The movie is ready to have its global premiere at Cannes today!
This movie has placed Pakistan on the map and is the first Horror movie to have been submitted from South Asia at the Director’s Fortnight event.
The movie delves into the oppressive reality of patriarchy in Pakistan. In his first-ever feature film, titled “In Flames,” Kahn utilizes supernatural horror to portray the unsettling feeling of constant surveillance endured by women in Pakistan.
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The plot revolves around Mariam, a young medical student, and her mother Fariha, as they navigate the power struggle that unfolds following the death of the male head of the family. While Mariam finds solace in a secret romance with a fellow student, a traumatic event unleashes a flood of nightmares and visions of lifeless demons.
Kahn draws inspiration from renowned female directors in France, such as Julia Ducournau and Mati Diop, who ingeniously employ the genre. He skillfully transforms Pakistan’s patriarchal reality into a menacing demonic threat that looms over the film’s main characters.
The city of Karachi, known as the birthplace of Sufism, provides an ideal setting for the supernatural elements in the film. The city has a rich folklore tradition centred around djinns and ghosts, influenced by the spiritual aspects of Sufi Islam.
The movie also sheds light on the discrimination faced by women in Pakistan. Property rights for women are seldom respected or enforced, and societal pressure often compels them to relinquish their rightful assets.
Due to the attached social stigma, very few women dare to approach the courts for justice. Shockingly, the male characters depicted in the film are hardly less terrifying than the demons haunting Mariam. One throws a brick through her car window and attempts to assault her, while another unknown individual engages in indecent behaviour on her balcony.
By presenting the narrative as a horror film, Kahn grants Mariam agency over her tormentors. In conventional social-realist dramas, the protagonist endures suffering, which becomes the main takeaway for the audience. However, in “In Flames” and other horror films, the resilient female lead conquers her inner demons and reclaims her power.
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Globe and Mail compared Kahn’s direction to that of American film director Ari Aster. “The film is put together with intense craft and torque we saw in Ari Aster’s hereditary, but with more heart and conviction,” they wrote in a review.
Bakhtawar Mazhar, in conversation with Independent Urdu, revealed that she will watch the feature film for the first time ever after its completion at the Cannes Film Festival itself. “There are barely any scary movies made in Pakistan that are also set here,” she said. In Flames was supposed to be completed in 2019 but due to Covid, their post-production got delayed.
“During the shoot and recording for the film, I knew that this story will definitely get world fame,” she said. “And it came true. The film was then selected for screening at international festivals including Cannes. I am happy about it, but my mother is more happy than me.”
However, Mazhar, who plays a lead role in the film, does not take all the credit for it. “This film involves the hard work of not only me but the entire team. We are all happy about this success,” she concluded.
The women-centred film, starring actors Rameesha Nawal, Bakhtawar Mazhar, Adnan Shah and Omair Javaid, is selected to premiere at the Directors Fortnight in the prestigious film festival where it will be screened from May 19 to May 27.
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