The past few years have been nothing short of sensational for Pakistani cinema, with a number of new film-makers trying to re-invent the neglected industry and cement themselves as future innovators. So far, many have successfully brought Pakistan international fame — the biggest of all being Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, who won Pakistan its first ever Oscar. Since then, many film-makers have gone on to showcase their work abroad, and have been appreciated for it.

One of this year’s releases, ‘Dukhtar’ (translating to daughter in the Pashto dialect), has successfully gained international recognition after winning two awards at the South Asian International Film Festival (SAIFF) held in New York a few days ago.

While present at the ceremony, Director Afia Nathaniel took to social media to express her excitement for receiving the awards of ‘Best Director’ and ‘Audience Award for Best Feature’. The Columbia University alumnus delightfully tweeted “Big night for #Pakistan and @DukhtarTheFilm for winning ‘Best Director’ + ‘Audience Award for Best Feature’ in NYC”.

Apart from these honours, the film has also been chosen by the Pakistani Academy Selection Committee to be submitted for Oscar consideration at the 87th Academy Awards next year, in the ‘Foreign Language Film’ category.

‘Dukhtar’ is drama-thriller that captivates audiences with its strong storyline, and emphasizes on the deeply-rooted issue of child marriage which runs rampant across Pakistan. The issue-based movie has done remarkably well on international forums because of its refreshing cinematography – which captures northern areas of Pakistan including Skardu, Hunza, Gilgit and Kallar Kahar, as well as an engaging plot.

The plot follows the life of a woman named Allah Rakhi, played by drama artist Samiya Mumtaz, who is forced into marriage with a much older man at the tender age of fifteen. While dreaming of a better life for her daughter, Zainab, played by child star Saleha Aref, Allah Rakhi runs away from her house and husband along with her daughter, and asks a truck driver – played by award-winning actor Mohib Mirza, for help.
Apart from winning awards at the SAIFF, Dukhtar has received a number of other international accolades as well; including the Hubert Hals Fund, SORFUND, National Geographic’s All Road Seed grant, and NETFLIX’s Women in Film Award.

The storyline of this drama-thriller primarily aims to shed light on the problems faced by tribal women in Pakistan, and the helplessness they face in wake of village customs. Alongside ‘Dukhtar’, the comedy ‘Na Maloom Afraad’ was also screened at the South Asian Film Festival, which certainly speaks volumes about the growth of cinema in Pakistan.