Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy’s short film Sitara: Let Girls Dream premiered at Karachi’s Nueplex Cinemas on Monday. The animated film narrated the story of a Pakistani girl forced into a child marriage.
Sitara is a 15-minute silent animated film that relies on visuals and sound effects to get the message across.
“The reason we did not include a single dialogue [in this film] is that we wanted everyone to interpret the film in their own way,” said Chinoy while talking to SAMAA Digital.
For the music, Sharmeen collaborated with Grammy and Emmy Award-winning music composer Laura Karpman. Her aim with this collaboration was to tell the story largely through the emotion of Karpman’s powerful score.
“The only mode of communication in the film is from the actions, eye movements, body movements and the music,” she said. Chinoy added that even though there were no dialogues in the film, everyone would walk out knowing what the film was about.
While talking about the film, actor Sanam Saeed remarked that the music was so powerful that there was no need for dialogues. “The message of the film was so strong that it doesn’t need any words to carry it forward,” said Saeed.
The story of Sitara revolves around the idea of forced child marriages in Pakistan. It is about a young girl who dreamed of becoming a pilot. Her father, however, arranges her marriage with a much older man and she is forced to oblige.
The father realises his mistake only after the marriage has taken place. During the credits, they show the father encouraging his younger daughter to pursue her dreams. She ends up becoming a pilot.
“As people know that when I create a film, it’s not just a film, I make movements,” said Chinoy. “There is a movement attached to this film too. My aim is to encourage everyone to invest in their daughters’ dreams.”
She said that they have also launched a global campaign called Let Girls Dream.
Chinoy believes that in Pakistan people do not invest in their daughters’ and it was important to do so in order to make the world more equitable.
“There should be more than just marriage, it’s also about studying, working and contributing to nation-building,” she said. “I want people to show Sitara to their daughters, house help and screen it in schools and community centres.”
The movie had been in the works for the last two years and was showcased at various international platforms. Finally, it was released, in partnership with Netflix, becoming the first-ever Netflix original from Pakistan.
The short film has also received international acclaim, winning Best Produced Screenplay, Best Music Score and the Humanitarian Award at the Los Angeles Animation Festival 2019.
Notable names from the fraternity like Ayesha Omar, Jimmy Khan, Frieha Altaf, Zahid Ahmed, Ushna Shah, Adeel Hussain and many others attended the premiere.
The short film was released on Netflix on March 8, International Women’s Day.
Chinoy is a filmmaker who knows what it’s like to transcend expectations. In 2012, she became the first Pakistani to receive an Academy Award, for her short-subject documentary Saving Face. Recently, she launched a YouTube docuseries, Fundamental, shedding light on the stories of five women around the world working to change their communities.