Film southasia

"Festival of southasian documentries"

Perween Rahman: The Rebel Optimist

Directed by Mahera Omar | |



“No one is safe in this city. Those who think otherwise are living in a fool’s paradise”, says Perween’s best friend and colleague Anwar Rashid as he navigates the chaotic roads of Karachi. An architect and urban planner, Perween Rahman dedicated her life for the poor of Pakistan. She was shot dead by armed assailants on her way home in March 2013. When she joined the Karachi based Orangi Pilot Project, founded by Dr. Akhtar Hameed Khan, Orangi’s lanes were full of filth and choking gutters. Back in the early 80s, the people of Orangi, most of them migrants from India and Bangladesh, were taking their own steps to improve sanitation. Dr. Khan assigned Perween the task of developing a low cost sanitation model for Orangi. Perween’s pioneering work in Orangi led her on a collision course with the various mafias in the city. She surveyed the water supply to Karachi and pinpointed locations from where water is being stolen from the bulk supply lines. She mapped and documented Karachi’s informal settlements to provide the poor security against land grabbers. Perween had an alternate vision for the development of Karachi. “Development doesn’t come from concrete. Development is not five star hotels and mega road projects. What we need is human development.”.


Mahera Omar is a documentary filmmaker and co-founder of the Pakistan Animal Welfare Society (PAWS). She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a Bachelor of Arts in Biology. After a brief stint doing laboratory research on the structure of proteins at the Tufts University Department of Biochemistry, she moved back to the city by the sea, Karachi. While in college, she co-produced and directed Dispatches from the Loo, a feature film about a love triangle shot entirely in a loo. Her short film Piano premiered at the vintage 3rd Kara Film Festival. Her other short films include Makhan Toast, Time’s fun when you’re having flies and Aik tha jin. She directed Janu Janwar, a weekly series on animals for Geo Television. Her documentary Sea Turtles was nominated for the Humane Society of the United States 22nd Genesis Award in the Brigitte Bardot International category for “its excellent depiction of the perils facing the endangered sea turtles of Pakistan and the efforts being made to save them.” She’s currently working on a feature length documentary about the birds of Karachi, and is on a dream journey recording qawwali and classical music across Pakistan.



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