An Interview with Renowned Director Mehreen Jabbar

Award-winning director Mehreen Jabbar has worked in the film industry for 14 years. After graduating from UCLA in 1993 with a certificate in Film, Television, and Video, Jabbar returned to Pakistan to work in television.
There, she directed tele-films and television series as well as several short films.

“Ramchand Pakistani” is the the director’s first feature length film. Produced, directed, and edited by Jabbar, the film has won many prestigious awards, including the Fipresci Prze from the International Federation of Film Critics. A complete list of the awards, as well as more information about the film, can be found at http://mehreenjabbar.com.

According to Jabbar’s Web site, “Ramchand Pakistani” is a film, “based on actual events about an accidental border crossing of a Pakistani Hindu boy and his father into India and the consequences of this unintended action on the lives of the boy, his father and mother.” It was released in Pakistan and India in 2008.
Jabbar sat down with a Point News reporter to discuss the film, her influences, and why she decided to screen the feature at the College.

On showing the film at St. Mary’s:
[Professor Sahar Shafqat] wanted to show the film to the students. I thought it would be an interesting new audience for me. Film is one of the ways to really tell a story about a place that is only projected in a certain way in the media.

On becoming a director:
My father has always been in media. Both my parents had an ad agency…I did realize that I don’t want to sell things…[After graduating from UCLA] I started working for Pakistan television in 2004. At that time there were only two channels. Now there are seventy. I had always wanted to make a feature but Pakistan has an almost next to nonexistent film industry.

On the film’s reception:
It’s been really amazing because it allowed me to show the film at various venues all over the world. It’s been a good dialogue for me and an incredible learning experience for me.
On the challenges she faced when writing the story and filming:
How do you make a story compelling for an hour and a half? How do you formulate something? Because you know the family is going to see it. The father and son were there the whole time. It’s “adapted from actual events.” It’s very close, but we did take some liberties, definitely.

On editing the film:
It really teaches you about what not to do. I hope I’ve learned from it. And being so intimately involved [with the process and final product], a filmmaker or director will always be very vulnerable.
On criticism:

You have to have nerves of steel, whether you are a writer or an artist or a musician. You can’t please everyone. It’s important to share and learn what to take from that criticism and opinion. It’s not for the weak. You have to have nerves of steel, definitely.
On her influences:

I think I was introduced to some really good films when I was growing up. [European films] were sort of quieter films, they left more to the imagination. Because I was shy growing up, that appealed to me more. I was influenced by American films as well. Studio films of the seventies and eighties. When Hollywood used to make smart films.

On Pakistan:
It’s often a misrepresented state, I feel. It’s been caught up in some bad decisions it’s made politically. It’s not been given the voice in the West as some other countries.
Ramchand Pakistani can be viewed online at youtube.com.

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