My Pure Land
The short film Two Dosas had already acquainted director Sarmad Masud with festival acclaim (it was long-listed for both a Bafta and an Oscar). His formidable debut feature My Pure Land is now set to confirm his success beyond any doubt. Based on a true story, the film tells of a land dispute in Pakistan that sees three women fight a battle that is not only metaphorical: AK-47s in hand, the ladies defend what is rightfully theirs with unbending resolution as armed men surround their house. The first scene opens with a statement revealing the magnitude of property-related conflicts in the country and the clear bias against female landowners. Absorbing from beginning to end, this is an exciting thriller that also draws attention to grave social matters still affecting millions.
Set in rural Pakistan, the story moves back and forth in time in a non-linear fashion that balances the tension masterfully. The main action shows teenage girl Nazo (Suhaee Abro), her younger sister Saeda and their mother, resisting a group of bandits intent on entering and taking possession of their home. Flashbacks tell of how the family feud began, with happy family moments often tainted by the high tension between the girls’ father and his younger brother Mehrban, who claims to have a right to their house. Mehrban uses his friendship with a ruthless police officer to get his brother arrested without a valid cause. Believing the women of the family to be completely vulnerable, Mehrban sets out to take the house by force, but he is faced with an unexpected reaction.
Abro’s magnetic screen presence makes her the undisputed star of the film. Her character slowly substitutes inexperience for resilience with astonishing grace and aplomb. The casting of all the characters, in fact, is spot on. Interactions feel natural and reactions look genuine. Masud insisted that the film be shot in Pakistan (and in the Urdu language) as he was committed to a feel of authenticity. He was determined, in keeping with the theme of the story, to create a project that would truly speak to, and for, that land. The result is a heartfelt ode to freedom and equality, and it is impossible not to be affected by its candour.
Aside from being satisfying from a cinematographic perspective, My Pure Land has the added value of carrying a socio-political message worth highlighting. Nazo is a real life heroine whose story acts as a feminist manifesto that can inspire change, making the film a significant feat in every way.
My Pure Land is released nationwide on 15th September 2017.