A potentially interesting evening turns sour
It all started when I phoned Sabeen to wish her Happy Birthday and asked her where she was going to be in the evening. That is when she told me that Geo was recording a panel interview of Sabiha Sumar regarding her latest documentary Dinner with the President.
For those who have not heard of Sabiha, here is a brief intro of her from the Vidhi Films (a company that Sabiha set up with S Sathananthan) website:
Born in Karachi, Sabiha Sumar studied Filmmaking and Political Science at Sarah Lawrence College in New York from 1980 to 1983 and then read History and Political Thought at Cambridge University.
As a independent filmmaker Sabiha Sumar has earned much acclaim for her films which deal with political and social issues such as the effects of religious fundamentalism on society and especially on women. Her first feature film, ‘Silent Waters ( Khamosh Pani )’ has played in film festivals around the world. Silent Waters won the Golden Leopard award at the Locarno International Film Festival in 2003. Sabiha’s first documentary, ‘Who Will Cast the First Stone,’ about three women in prison in Pakistan under Islamic law won the Golden Gate Award at the San Francisco Film Festival in 1998.
Her latest documentary “Dinner with the President” is said to be her personal search for Democracy in Pakistan. The documentary has raised a lot of eyebrows amongst Pakistanis and non-Pakistanis alike – with many saying that this award-winning film is extremely flawed and biased, that she has not included interviews with major political parties, but what is considered most horrifying is Sabiha’s conclusion that democracy is perhaps a culture that may not work in Pakistan.
So the panel interview at The Second Floor sounded like it would be interesting and juicy, to say the least. Since they had said they were going to lock up T2F from 5:15 pm to 6:15 pm for the recording, I got there just before that.
So did I enjoy the evening? Sadly, only a part of it. Had a chance to chat with some bloggers who were there while we waited … and waited … and waited. I find it very irritating that people do not value time and so I could feel myself becoming less relaxed as the time wore on.
Finally at 7 it seemed the Geo team was finally ready.
When they asked us to turn off our mobile phones, everyone naturally cooperated.
When they asked that the doors be locked and no-one be allowed in or out during the recording, that made sense.
When they asked that the kitchen be closed – no noise of coffee being brewed or milkshakes being made, it was a reasonable request.
Even when some “pompous” guy gave a long spiel about how we had to be quiet during the recording because the equipment was very sensitive and would pick up the slightest sound (he took 5 minutes to say this … he just went on and on), we accepted it with a reasonable amount of patience.
When did the patience run out? Well, it started when they told us not to cough although they insisted on smoking in a closed space. They told us to be absolutely quiet, no whispering. I was surprised they didn’t say “don’t smile otherwise the change of expression will be picked up by our mikes”. It actually got worse when they told us not to sip coffee – not as if we were slurping or anything. Perhaps we should stop breathing too, was the thought that came to mind.
Can you imagine they told one of the young men to stop playing chess because he might get excited, jump up, and cheer at some stage of the game. I wonder if they wanted to record in a real coffee house or in a wax museum. Anyway, when they told us not to have coffee, we considered it blasphemous and staged a walkout. 🙂 Perhaps they should take themselves less seriously. People record in war zones, for heaven’s sake.
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