Award winning film a victim of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws

LAHORE (UCAN): The government of Pakistan has the release of Zindagi Tamasha—internationally known as Circus of Life—for referring to the country’s controversial blasphemy laws.

The film which garnered an award at the 24th Busan International Film Festival in 2019, follows a naat khuan (reciter of religious poems) who is ostracised by the community and family members after a video of him dancing at a wedding goes viral. It was scheduled for release on January 24 in Pakistan.

“There should be no conditions on critical thinking. The film is a silent criticism of forbidden realities of society like any other piece of literature. The authorities should focus on the underlying intentions of the film’s maker. Film can be a powerful medium of change. Sadly we do not enjoy such freedoms,” Father Morris Jalal, founder and programme director of Lahore-based Catholic TV, said.

Shahid Anwar, a Christian lawyer and activist, called for freedom of expression guaranteed under the constitution of Pakistan. “The trailer doesn’t depict anything derogatory. Strict censorship of films and the media is the reason for the downfall of our film industry,” he said. 

According to media reports, the first trailer hinted at the misuse of the blasphemy laws. Human rights groups say the laws continue to contribute to the violation of human rights as they are used to settle personal disputes and vendettas.

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The director, Sarmad Khoosat, and cast say members of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), a hardline Sunni group, threatened to stop the release of the first Pakistani feature film (fiction) to win at an international film festival.

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