Pakistani Film ‘Wakhri’ Shines at SXSW with North American Premiere on International Women’s Day

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Karachi by Mirza Iftikhar Baig. Pakistani cinema makes a remarkable mark on the global stage as ‘Wakhri’ officially premiered in North America at the prestigious SXSW festival on March 8, 2024. This significant debut aligned perfectly with International Women’s Day, adding a poignant layer to the film’s narrative. Starring Faryal Mehmood in the titular role of ‘Wakhri’, the film is written and directed by the visionary Iram Parveen Bilal and produced by Abid Aziz Merchant (Sanat Initiative), Apoorva Bakshi (Awedacious Originals), Bilal’s Parveen Shah Productions, and executive produced by Aalia Mahboob Elahi. Earlier, the film premiered at the Red Sea International Film Festival in December 2023 and was released nationwide across Pakistan on January 5, 2024. ‘Wakhri’ is Bilal and Merchant’s second project at SXSW, the first being ‘I’ll Meet You There’ which was a Grand Jury Award Nominee at SXSW 2020.

The North American premiere of the Pakistani film ‘Wakhri’ at SXSW is a monumental moment for Pakistani cinema. As one of the most prestigious festivals globally, SXSW provides a platform for under-the-radar movies to shine, making it the perfect launchpad for ‘Wakhri.’ With its compelling storyline, stellar performances, and exploration of universal themes, ‘Wakhri’ represents a significant cultural export from Pakistan, showcasing the country’s rich cinematic talent and contributing to the global conversation on women’s empowerment and social change.

According to Bilal, “Wakhri’s DNA is empowering not just for women but anyone who feels marginalized and judged by society. It is a story that celebrates misfits.”

The film unravels the story of a widowed school teacher whose life takes an unexpected turn when her unfiltered opinions on social media catapult her into the limelight overnight. As an unlikely influencer, she grapples with the complexities of managing archaic norms, concealed identities, and the upbringing of her 10-year-old son. ‘Wakhri’ becomes a poignant exploration of women’s struggles to express themselves and claim their space, both in the physical and digital realms.

According to Bakshi, “We applaud the stance that Wakhri takes in a highly patriarchal world and the hope it echoes through the actions of our formidable protagonist Faryal Mehmood.”

According to Merchant, “Wakhri is dark, yet hopeful – a unique combination, a Wakhri indeed”.

The endeavor to bring ‘Wakhri’ to the silver screen has been punctuated by significant milestones. These include its participation at esteemed film labs and markets such as the Locarno Film Festival’s Open Doors Hub in 2018, the Cannes Cinefondation L’Atelier in 2019, and its presence at the Busan Asian Project Market in 2022. Notably, the project secured a production grant from CAPE (The Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment) and the CAA Foundation, solidifying its prominence in the domain of cinematic storytelling. Furthermore, ‘Wakhri’ recently garnered attention at the prestigious Red Sea International Film Festival, where it shared the stage with works from several internationally acclaimed luminaries as well.

Directed by the award-winning Iram Parveen Bilal, ‘Wakhri’ promises to captivate the international audience with its compelling storyline and stellar performances. The film explores themes of empowerment, identity, and resilience, resonating deeply with viewers across cultures. Hence, SXSW provides the ideal platform for ‘Wakhri’ to shine once again in front of an international audience while putting Pakistan on the map for creating stellar films.

SXSW, or South by Southwest, stands as a premier destination for artists, filmmakers, musicians, and tech enthusiasts alike, converging annually in Austin, Texas. This renowned cultural event celebrates the intersection of film, music, and interactive media, offering a dynamic platform for creatives to showcase their work, engage in thought-provoking discussions, and network with industry professionals. From captivating film premieres to electrifying musical performances and innovative technological advancements, SXSW fosters a vibrant atmosphere of creativity and innovation, shaping the cultural landscape and inspiring audiences worldwide.

Highlighted among the unforgettable feature films from around the globe, ‘Wakhri’ has already garnered attention and anticipation. Its multiple screenings during the festival on March 8th, 10th, and 14th, offer ample opportunities for attendees to experience its cinematic brilliance. With ‘Wakhri,’ Pakistani cinema continues to assert its presence on the international stage, offering fresh perspectives and narratives that resonate universally.

“Wakhri” is also soon to premiere in Ohio at the Cleveland International Film Festival on April 9, 2024. The Cleveland International Film Festival is among the longest-running and largest film festivals in the USA, drawing more than 100,000 film enthusiasts annually. It is a leader in helping the world discover the power of film arts to educate, entertain, and celebrate an inclusive human experience.

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