It takes several years for a documentary to evolve from an inspiring moment of observation to a finished film that can become a source of inspiration for others.
Not since Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy’s ‘Saving Face’, has a young Pakistani filmmaker had such an impact on the international stage… Seraj-us-Salikin is that young talent.
Salikin’s documentary ‘Masters of the Sky’ has been officially selected for the Short Film Corner and will be showcased at the Cannes Film Festival 2014, to be held next month. Having already won several awards at national film festivals organized by LUMS, Aga Khan University and Zab Media Festival it would appear ‘Masters of the Sky’ is now going global.
The documentary delves into the history of veteran pigeon fighters in a close-knit neighborhood of Karachi called ‘Jamshed Road’. The story unravels an ancient sport that is preserved and passed down from generation to generation in a growing urban landscape.
While speaking to The Karachiite, Salikin was kind enough to share a little about his experiences. “The documentary was basically my final project in SZABIST for a documentary course. I was very keen to pick a topic that is not known to many people and something that is culturally relevant to the city. Pigeon sporting was in my mind and I was looking for the right neighborhood and people. After meeting Mehmood Sahab (pigeon fighter) and having a chat with him, I was assured that he is going to be one of the first people I will interview for my film.”
Sharing the credit with his teacher Shehram Mokhtar, his Director of Photography Maaz Ahmed, and his classmates for their never-ending support, Salikin is humble when mentioning that “it was a student project and even sending it to Cannes was unthinkable. But one of my friends motivated me and advised me to give it a try. The selection came out as a huge surprise. I was very happy when I got the news. Getting my film in Cannes was like a dream come true.”
Inspired by the passion of pigeon fighters and pleased with the performance of his debut film, Seraj says someday (if he is able to acquire the funding), he intends to make a feature documentary on the subject matter.
Projecting their passion through his body of work, Seraj says, “These fighters are passionate people. They take pride in kabootar baazi! They do it every day for hours and hours. It tells me how strange human nature is. Mehmood Sahib had a bypass and he is not even allowed to climb stairs. Yet, he goes on his roof every day and trains his pigeons and has been doing this for more than 50 years.”
Just the selection at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, has been great motivation for this budding new filmmaker to pursue what he loves most.
“Success hasn’t really sunk in me. I am going to stick to my plan. Tell stories, make films.”