Over the past few years, we’ve seen a growing number of films from Pakistan move out from under the shadow of Bollywood and Indian cinema to find international acclaim.
The latest of these, Iram Parveen Bilal’s One Of A Kind (Wakhri), is receiving its world premiere in competition here at Red Sea International Film Festival. Bilal and actor Gulshan Majeed, one of the two leads in the indie feature, dropped by Deadline’s Red Sea Studio to tell us more about the film, which Bilal also produced with Abid Aziz Merchant (I’ll Meet You There) and Apoorva Bakshi (Delhi Crime).
Although the film was inspired by the true story of Qandeel Baloch – a Pakistani social media star who was murdered by her family despite their profiting from her fame – Bilal decided that she didn’t want to tell Baloch’s story directly.
Instead, she wrote a story about a widowed schoolteacher who becomes a viral sensation overnight when she accidentally releases her uncensored opinions on social media, but then has to contend with the trolls while raising her 10-year-old son.
“I couldn’t stop thinking about her [Baloch] when she was killed, but because her real life story ended the way it did, I didn’t want to glorify that on screen,” says Bilal. “I also felt her impact went way beyond reducing her to that very unfortunate incident. So the idea was to take her unapologetic brave spirit, be inspired by it and create a fictionalised story that not only pays tribute to her, but also talks about the hundreds who retreated further into the shadows when this happened to her.”
The main character in One Of A Kind is played by Faryal Mehmood, an actress who Bilal explains has experienced a fair amount of trolling in real life. Majeed plays her best friend and ally, who is also her guide to the underground club scene: “I give her the strength and push she needs to be out there and make her videos, but in the end she also helps me to really be myself and come out as trans in public,” Majeed explains.
Bilal, who is based between the U.S. and Pakistan, also talked about how she raised finance for the film and went about the casting process; as well as her last film I’ll Meet You There, which was selected for SXSW; and what is behind the current wave of groundbreaking films coming out of Pakistan. Watch the video above to find out more.