Pakistani Slacker Film Banned
Slackistan is a mockumentary about nothing. At feature movie length, I was a little hesitant about going to the screening. Watching over-privileged kids whine and whittle away their youth is not for the faint-hearted. My favourite literary tramp sums the film up quite well: “Nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes, it’s awful!” And yet, a movie about seemingly ‘nothing’ has stirred the moral fibres of Pakistan’s Central Board of Film Censors and without certain cuts, which the director Hammad Khan has refused to make, means it is effectively banned in Pakistan.
Slackistan follows the lives of a group of well-off 20-something friends in the capital, Islamabad. They have been to the best schools but have yet to make something of themselves. Not an unusual dilemma for 20-somethings the world over. But in a country like Pakistan what makes this significant, and worrying, is that it is a privilege to be given the opportunity to get a quality education that will allow you to do something. Yet it is precisely that opportunity that has resulted in some of them being so privileged they feel they can afford to do nothing.
Everyday, the cocky but charming Sherry pulls up in his dad’s large Mercedes, with the ever perky Saad in the backseat, picking up Hasan and going through their routine of shisha cafes, house parties, high school stake-outs and lots of driving around town. Sherry is secretly borrowing cash from local rich loser Mani, who is trying to buy his way into Sherry’s social circle and contacts.
So why so much fuss over a bunch of slackers? For anyone who was a high school kid circulating in the upper echelons of Pakistani society in the 1990s or today there is nothing the movie depicted that would tell you anything you didn’t already know. You would have met or gone to school with characters like those depicted in the movie; or you were one of those characters. Except urban centres in Pakistan in the 1990s were not what they are now. And the Taliban were over the border, not in the cities, or constantly on your television screen. There are a few more options for the privileged youth of today than ‘your house, my house’, ‘my car, your car’, Snoopy’s (think Ben n’ Jerry’s with a lot less variety of flavours) or Mr Burger (think super spicy McDonald’s hamburger).
The following is from the press release that describes the reasons for the ban:
“The CBFC have demanded that the filmmaker remove all dialogue references in the film to the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden, as well as any mention of Islamic beards and related religious attire.”
The director’s response:
“Maybe the establishment’s view is that young Pakistanis saying words like ‘Taliban’ and ‘Lesbian’ represent a more potent threat than the bullets and bombs that are, day by day, finding increasing legitimacy in the country. Apart from being an undemocratic restriction on the filmmaker’s right of expression, the verdict shows the disdain with which the authorities regard local film culture and liberal ideas, in the face of growing extremism and intolerance.”
The sense of frustration that certain characters, particularly the male and female leads, exude is palatable across the country today. However, the protagonist in the film does eventually muster the courage to follow his dream as a film maker. So even for a slacker, there is a sliver of hope amidst the uncertainty.
While it is only a snapshot of a minuscule portion of the Pakistani populace, the film’s audience lies both inside and outside the country. Slackistan has already had successful screenings at festivals in London, Abu Dhabi, New York, San Francisco and Goa.
Yet the movie can only illicit a reaction if it is actually screened in Pakistan and Pakistanis from all types of backgrounds get the opportunity to see the film. While Hollywood and Bollywood movies flood the country both legally and illegally, movies about Pakistanis and made by Pakistanis are being banned.
According to the Motion Pictures Ordinance 1979, “A film shall not be certified for public exhibition; if, in the opinion of the Board, the film or any part thereof is prejudicial to the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality or amounts to the commission of, or incitement to, an offence.”
Here’s where the line between Slackistan and Hypocristan blurs. Idleness in Pakistan can indeed be a threat. It appears idleness breeds slackers within the elites and idleness fosters desperation in the poor under both ‘democratic’ and military rule. While the film doesn’t consciously delve into politics, it does underscore how futile it is to try and completely dismember politics from everyday life in Pakistan. I have little doubt this film will be seen, someway, somehow, from Karachi to Lahore and Islamabad to Peshawar.
In the same month, in the same city that the former Punjab Governor, Salmaan Taseer, was murdered for his comments on Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and thousands took to the streets to support his murderer, a movie like Slackistan is banned, and Islamabad hosts its first fashion week.
Welcome to Hypocristan.
The views expressed by the author are personal.
Follow us on twitter@thefastertimes
- 1 Amanda Bynes’s Behavior Revealed to Be Elaborate PSA
- 2 Obama Horrified by the Grammar in Our Emails
- 3 Monster Fart Prompting Management to Rethink “Open Office”
- 4 NSA Demanded Access To Un-Filtered Instagram Photos
- 5 Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson Ambushed By Alan ‘The Paper’ Rubinstein
- 6 ‘Licensed to Kim Jong Il’ Records 27th Straight Year Atop N. Korean Charts
- 7 Vice Magazine Now Only Hiring Writers Who Fail Drug Test
- 8 Henry Cavill to be Replaced by Stack of Pancakes in “Man of Steel” Sequel
- 9 Stanley Cup Final One Blowout Away From “Boston Massacre” Headline Outrage
- 10 Taco Bell Now Just Dumping Bags of Doritos Into Everything On Menu