Decembers in Karachi mean four busy weeks and are awaited all year round. Apart from bringing the much sought after winters–often warmer than springs of the nation’s upper half, they also offer various high profile exhibitions, and for the past five years one of the country’s biggest event; the international Kara Film Festival which has been growing exponentially each year. Yet, for many a critic, it was lately getting a bit tricky to judge whether the festival would ever be able to grow out of its mere “O it’s a wonderful effort and does great good for Pakistan’s image” existence. Adding more anxiety was the fact that even though about 100 films from as many as 18 countries took part in the 4th Kara, the festival even in its fourth year had apparently failed to attract key players of the trade except of course Mahesh and Pooja Bhatt from India whose keen involvement in Kara has been a landmark in itself. Their weight alone as the biggest names associated with the festival each year was about to fall short, however, when it was supported by two more big names, again from India, for it’s fifth birthday. Pakistan’s infant film fest finally matured into an adolescent in December 2005.
With the announcements of Subhash Ghai and Anupam Kher’s participation with their films ‘Iqbal’ and ‘Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Maara’, as producer and actor & producer respectively, Kara finally made anyone and everyone stop and take a closer look. Local participation was better than ever with Mubasher Lucman’s much awaited ‘Pehla Pehla Pyar’ starring Nadeem, Resham, Zara Sheikh, Sajid Hasan and Ali Tabish being premiered while the number of participating countries had almost doubled to 30 which apart from Pakistan included India, France, Italy, Germany, UK, US, Canada, Argentina, Iran, Lebanon, Austria, Switzerland, Poland, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Turkey and Greece to name a few. Having missed the Mughal themed opening ceremony on 1 December at Mohatta Palace even the President and Mrs couldn’t keep away from the fun and attended the award ceremony at the PAF Museum on 11 December along with Governor Ishrat-ul-Ibad, CM Arbab Ghulam Rahim, the Commander 5 Corps Lt Gen Syed Athar Ali and Senator Mushahid Hussain. The president’s appreciation and promise for all support has been a milestone and it’s only reasonable to predict the richness of the 6th Kara in December 2006.
With the festival taking place two months after the massive October earthquake, a highlight of the 5th Kara was the seminar on 8th December titled ‘Eyewitnesses To Disaster: Electronic Media Coverage of the Earthquake 2005’ which was an interactive public discussion with Chief Executives and News Directors of Geo, Indus, ARY, Aaj and PTV, shedding light and exchanging views on the performance of the media and news teams in covering the country’s greatest disaster which has been declared by the international community as one of history’s worst. Hasan Zaidi, the festival director played the moderator and introduced the executives which were Azhar Abbas of Geo News, Shaheen Salauddin of Indus News, Owais Tauheed of ARY One, Arshad Zuberi of Aaj TV and no one from PTV. The discussion evolved and revolved around how reasonably well Pakistani channels with no prior experience of covering large scale devastations were able to cover the developments live. The point generally agreed upon by all was stretched a bit too far beyond any reasonable argument with the clichéd claims that news teams had reached places which had often been inaccessible even to the army. Bizarre as it is these team leaders made fools out of their news crews with such claims since ‘accessible to the army’ and ‘accessible to a news team’ in this context meant totally different things. While ‘access’ to the former implied immediate access of at least a dozen soldiers with rescue and relief supplies, ‘access’ to the latter could have meant two souls, four shoes and a camera.
The award winners of the Ciepies (sea shells) unsurprisingly turned out to be the most popular entries of the festival with the Iranian film ‘Gilaneh’ bagging two biggest awards; the best feature film and best female actor in a leading role presented to actress Fatemeh Motamedarya. The best documentary went to Sandhya Suri’s ‘I for India’. Best male actor in a leading role went to Anupam Kher for ‘Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara’ and Rehan Sheikh for ‘24 Ghantay’, best male actor in a supporting role went to Burghart Klaussner from Germany for ‘Die Fetten Jahre Sind Vorbei’ (The Edukators), the best female actor in a supporting role was taken by Shweta Prasad for ‘Iqbal’ and the best director went to Nagesh Kukunoor also for ‘Iqbal’.