With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Thursday, December 05, 2013


Amna Ilyas as Rafina (Photo courtesy of Vidhi Films)
Good Morning, Karachi
Directed by Sabiha Sumar
Pakistan, 2013, 85 minutes
Languages: Urdu (with English subtitles) and English
When: Friday, December 6, 2013 at 7:30 PM
Where: NYIT Auditorium, 1871 Broadway 
Between 61st and 62nd Streets

Good Morning Karachi will be shown tomorrow evening as the Centerpiece Film of the 2013 South Asian International Film Festival, which runs through Sunday, December 8th. It's the story of Rafina (played by the stunning Amna Ilyas), a sweet, simple and lovely young woman living in modern day Pakistan with her mother and younger brother. She dreams of working and seeing a bit of the world. From the balcony of her family's apartment she gazes across the way at a large billboard featuring a beautiful model. The billboard is hated by fundamentalists, who brand it as an obscenity against Islam and an example of the decadent influence of the West on traditional Pakistani values. Thus is set up the conflict between Rafina's aspirations and widespread religious extremism.

Rafina gazing at the billboard featuring a beautiful model

There are other forces aligned against her desires. Her mother wants her to get married and set up a family as a traditional Pakistani wife and mother. Rafina does become engaged to Arif, a young man who lives in a neighboring apartment. While he does give her driving lessons and is politically progressive, a follower of Benazir Bhutto, he has traditional views of what Rafina's role will be as a wife and that role does not include working.

Rosie Khala, Arif's mother, agrees to let Rafina assist her in her work. She provides beauty services to wealthy Pakistani women, both freelancing and at an upscale salon called Radiance. It is there that Rafina's determination and resourcefulness, aided by her beauty and slim figure (Amna herself is a model) lead to breaks that could result in her realizing her dream. But such a path will not come without its costs and conflicts, not only with those she knows and loves, but with others who hate what such a dram represents.

Rafina serving tea at Radiance, a beauty salon

I had some difficulties with the DVD screener I received, problems that turned out to be related to the player I was using, not the screener itself. These difficulties made viewing the film less than optimal, but I stuck with it because the story was so compelling, as was Amna's performance. For a Westerner, it can be all too easy to dismiss Pakistan (and certain other countries) as being inhabited by right-wing, ultra-conservative religious zealots. Good Morning, Karachi remarkably portrays the fact that there are those who do not share those extremist beliefs, but who look forward to living there own lives and attempting to realize their own dreams in a modern Pakistan, one in which the role of women will not be horribly confined and restricted.

ACF Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars; very highly recommended

After Friday night's screening, there will be a post Film Q&A with Nayyareen Chhapra (production designer), Harune Massey (first assistant director) & Malia Scotch Marmo (co-screenwriter).