Pakistani short film on rising incidence of suicides wins awards in New York

KARACHI: An Urdu short film on the increasing incidence of suicides by women and students in Chitral has won three awards at the World Film Festival in New York.

The film has claimed the best director, best actress and best story idea awards in the competition in which 96 films participated.

The story has successfully highlighted the factors and elements, which force women and students into preferring death to life. In more than 90 cases, they commit suicide by jumping into the river.

Produced by Nighat Akbar Shah and directed by Shoaib Sultan, the 30-minute ‘Darya Ke Iss Paar’ revolves around a young woman, Gul Zareen, who develops psychosomatic issues in her teenage due to the bad behavior of the people close to her. The issues become complex after marriage.

Gul Zareen’s husband, parents and relatives around her failed to identify her complexities, so her condition deteriorates to such an abyss of frustration that she jumps into the river to end life seems to get rid of her agony.

Writers of the story Shoaib Sultan, Mir Hamza and Syed Tayyib Raza have tried to sensitize and awaken the society to the situation and realize the problems deal with by the distressed women, students, who resort to the severe step of taking their lives.

Gul Zareen is subjected to both physical and mental torture by male members of the family, including her husband adding to her anguish and depression. She finds very few people to console her.

According to film director Shoaib Sultan, producer Nighat Akbar Shah, who belonged to Garam Chashma valley of Chitral and was settled in the US, was a social activist working for women’s rights and it was her effort to use the medium of film to create awareness of the women’s social issues responsible for growing suicide incidence.

The issue had been exposed in the context of the local environment of Chitral and Gilgit-Baltistan, which shared a social environment to a high degree and were known for superb scenic beauty, he added.

The writers studied and deeply analyzed the ground realities and facts before developing the synopsis of the story and developing it for which they toured and stayed in the area while the shooting of the film was carried out in Garam Chashma, of Chitral,” Shoaib Sultan said.

Explaining the implication of the film’s name, Shoaib Sultan said it was meant to send out the signal that the local people have to stick to their own place in the face of problems and that jumping into the river was not the solution of the problem.

“It also meant that the local populace should rely on their potentials and resources and come out with solutions and ways to translate it into action instead of looking to outsiders for help,” he said. The incidents of suicide in Chitral have reached an alarming stage over the past few years.

People from various walks of life have cited an increasing sense of deprivation, injustice among women and youth as the prime reason for an increase in suicides in Chitral.

The tough competition in the education sector between the students is also blamed for an increase in the suicide trend among the youth. According to some experts, the limited job and income opportunities created a sense of deprivation among the young people, which is the driving force for suicide among this class.

According to the official data, a total of 45 suicide attempts were reported in the corresponding year. police sources said 15 suicides occurred in the area in the past three months.