January issue 2016

By | Profile | Published 8 years ago

This was one of the themes that emerged when the team of The Fearless Collective held their workshop and public art campaign in Lahore in late November. The Fearless Collective is an initiative that was put together by activist Shilo Shiv Suleman in India when Jyoti Singh, a medical student, was gang-raped in a bus. It is a collective of artists, activists, photographers and filmmakers who aim to bring about social change through public art and storytelling in public spaces. Haya Fatima Iqbal, a freelance video journalist and documentary filmmaker, has played an active role in the venture.

“I used to think that I would only be filming it, but I ended up becoming a part of the team. From planning the workshop to painting community-inspired slogans on the walls, I participated in the entire process, and now that I am a part of it, there is no going back.”

From Lahore to Rawalpindi and finally to Karachi, the collective was able to engage people of the community in discourse on issues ranging from gender inequality to violence in Karachi through their art.

“Documentary making, for me, was a way to go into minute details, to explore the hidden layers,” she says.

Iqbal’s journey into the field of documentaries began when she realised she was most interested in narrative story-telling through the lens of the camera. It gave her an opportunity to understand the details, to highlight the truths hidden under the darkness of false assumptions. And at the end of day, narrate stories of people belonging to assorted backgrounds and experiencing different realties.

City of Parties, shot, edited and produced by her in 2012, is a documentary based on the ethnic conflict between two communities, Mohajirs and Pashtuns, in the Katti Pahari area of Karachi.

Being a woman, wandering about in a place where violence rules in search of the truth, posed its own set of challenges.

“I sometimes wonder how I was able to pull it off,” says Iqbal.

And now for the best piece of news. A documentary, A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness, which she has co-produced with Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, has been shortlisted for the Oscars in the category of Best Documentary — Short Subject. We are keeping our fingers crossed.

This article was originally published in Newsline’s Annual 2016 issue.