SUPPORT: A Perfect 10

It’s been ten spectacular years since our first grant and the launch of Global Lens, and 200+ filmmakers later, we’ve only broken the surface…

Zeba Bakhtiar, CEO of Sagar Entertainment

WATCH: Zeba Bakhtiar, CEO of Sagar Entertainment, on Pakistan's film and media industry

More than a decade ago, in a small bar in Beijing, the Global Film Initiative was launched, at least in concept.  The idea:  to create a film-based organization, a social enterprise, that ‘leveled the field’ via its support of filmmakers in nations without established film industries; and its promotion of public education and community in the U.S. through a dynamic network of partners in the arts.

Years later, we’ve seen that idea flourish, take root and grow at an unbelievable rate.  We’ve now supported filmmakers from more than 50 nations through grants and [Global Lens] distribution, and in some cases, launched careers.  Global Lens is screened throughout the U.S., and at an ever-increasing number of high schools and public libraries.  And, we have an amazing base of followers who credit us with playing an integral role in the growth of their regional industry–and opening minds to new perspectives, politics and ways of doing business.

But, for as good as all that sounds, it’s not enough.  There is still a world out there untouched by our efforts—a fact that I was recently reminded of during a visit to our office last week by Pakistani producer, director and CEO of Sagar Entertainment, Zeba Bakhtiar, who had this to say about her nation’s film and media industry:

When Pakistan was established in 1947 it had a thriving film industry which if not of the magnitude of the Indian film industry matched it at every level of quality. Films were popular family entertainment. Until the 70s’ the film industry was flourishing. In 1977 the military Dictator Zia-ul-Haq over threw the government. In that tragic 11-year regime numerous collapses took place, arts suffered the most and the film industry was practically demolished.

The Afghan war, religious extremism and the Talibaan followed. Cinema owners’ artists and technicians could no longer make a living as cinemas were destroyed and film studios closed. Professionals from film had no option but to move to television. Thus over 20 years past as reviving the film industry was not a priority amidst all the other problem that the country and government were facing. Some years ago the government permitted the import of Indian films that led to many Cineplex’s is being made and cinema gradually revived somewhat. However the film industry did not revive.

Over the past five years a few government and organization funded films have been made that were politically driven. As these films were predominantly under establishment control, the world saw what the government allowed them to see be the message positive or negative. When posing as a democratic state, it is essential that the infrastructure of a private sector of cinema be established for the empowerment of the people, this is the first step, towards giving those suffering a tool to let the world know what they are experiencing through the war on terror, corruption, illiteracy, abuse of female human rights or inter faith harmony issues, broaching upon all these subjects from the point of view of the people of Pakistan. Now after 30 years film has become a viable business option in Pakistan that can be used as a portal to the voice of the people of Pakistan at a global platform.

I have realized that the negative perception of Pakistan and the distorted image perceived by the world towards this country is the result of the lack of efforts made towards depicting the true image of Pakistan by the media. Today the world has deemed Pakistan a country to be harboring terrorism whilst failing to acknowledge that the maximum numbers of lives sacrificed for this war are of Pakistani’s. My aim is to correct any false perception towards Pakistan, to use film as a means to bring social change and awareness and to create positive role models to improve social values while telling stories of true realities being faced by the Pakistani public.  – Zeba Bakhtiar

Ms. Bakhtiar is an Eisenhower fellow on six-week tour of the U.S., and her visit to GFI, like that of other fellows, was to gain insight on how we went from a small idea to what we are today:  the same small idea, but with a very large footprint across the globe..  For us, it was a wonderful opportunity, because for as much as we travel the world, it’s rare that the world comes to us.  And it also provided us with a moment of clarity…

Or rather, reality, in acknowledging that at our ten year anniversary, we’ve really only scratched the surface when it comes to “leveling the field”—because amidst all that we’ve supported over the years, we’ve only supported one film from Pakistan.  And while we did support the first-ever narrative feature made in Timor-Leste, we have yet to help a filmmaker from Cambodia or Syria.  Global Lens has yet to been seen in North Dakota.  And classrooms in Detroit remain our biggest challenge…

An invigorating challenge, for our next ten years.  We done some good, but there’s always more to do.

And always more that you can do.  Ms. Bakhtiar is one individual in a pantheon of people that we’d like to support in the next decade, and we want you to be a part of that process.  So visit our website and make a donation.  Or, go to our catalogue and purchase a Global Lens film—because all revenues earned by Global Lens either go directly to filmmakers, or are used in support of our programs and philanthropic initiatives.

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