This Stained Dawn

Dagh Dagh Ujala

- PAKISTAN, CANADA / 2021 / Urdu, English / Color, B&W / DCP / 89 min

Director, Photography, Producer: Anam Abbas
Editing: Omar Majeed
Additional Camera: Haya Fatima Iqbal, Gul Nayani, Mahnoor Mahar, Tazeen Bari, Warda Adil Shah, Sadia Khatri, Hadi Khatri, Manal Khan, Faizan & Daniyal
Music: Rahema Alam
Animation: Aziza Ahmed
Source: Other Memory Media

On the streets of Pakistan, from Karachi to Islamabad, the Aurat March (Women’s March), was held despite counter-demonstrators and the bombardment of hate speech against the participants. A few months prior, a women’s group was formed in Karachi to organize a public event and protest on International Women’s Day. We discover a profound sense of supple solidarity, wisdom and hard work in these women from all walks of life vividly depicting their passion even as they overcome lawsuits to stop the protests, and battle against the headwinds. Combining archival footage with animation, the film gives historical context to and breathes life into feminism in Pakistan, bridging time and forging connections between the reality the women face every day and the larger struggles of feminism.

[Director’s Statement] In 2019–2020, filming with the communities behind the march, I entered spaces as a friend and fellow organizer. The film displays the trust and intimacy of a film made as an insider. During the edit as well, my ongoing camaraderie with activists and organizers from multiple cities and their unfolding concerns and desires manifest themselves into the film.

As the state pushes a narrative that criminalizes feminists and accuses the movement for being anti-state and funded by anti-state actors, the film retorts by presenting a reality of grassroots work, political and ideological engagement and a multiplicity of voices that make the current moment. For an international audience, the film subverts the traditional global narrative of Muslim women’s victimhood and instead asserts our truths—we have deep histories of resistance that intersect with anti-imperial and leftist struggles.

The film is a joining together of voices from a tightly-knit community of activists, organizers and artists. The music and auditory journey of the film included collaborations with boundary-pushing women artists and an original score by Rahema Alam. The animated sequences were inspired by a tarot reading conducted a day before the 2020 march by a feminist artist and organizer, Zahra Malkani, and created by animator Aziza Ahmad, who volunteered most of the art work and graphic design on Aurat March posters since 2018. Her artistic voice, which shaped the iconography of these historic marches, continues in this film.

- Anam Abbas

Pakistan-based Pakistani Canadian filmmaker. Runs Other Memory Media. As a producer and DOP, her first feature, Showgirls of Pakistan (2020), premiered in competition at IDFA 2020 and was released globally by VICE in Feb 2021. She is also the creator of Ladies Only, a web series, and the short films Saya (2019) and Lucky Irani Circus (2015). This is her debut feature documentary as director. Abbas is also one of the founding members of the Documentary Association of Pakistan (DAP).  She is one half of angry grrrl band Garam Anday.