Nationality: Pakistan

Subh-e-Azadi / The Dawn of Freedom by Faiz Ahmed Faiz

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Sabina England’s expressive ASL translation of the great Urdu poet’s poem about the 1947 Partition of India and Pakistan. Be sure to click the CC icon to get the subtitles, and choose either Spanish (translation by Sabina England and Alberto Hernandez) or English (translation by Agha Shahid) by clicking on the settings icon. England notes that ‘The poem is recited by Naseeruddin Shah, a famous Indian actor, from the movie “Firaaq” (2008).’

Fifth Avenue by Hasan Mujtaba

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Oh my beloved country
When I sing of your separation
I return to myself
But all I hear in return,
Is the language of guns…

A poetry film in the style I like to think of as illustrated spoken word—a style that works particularly well for poems that blend the personal and the political. Sofian Khan of Capital K Pictures directed. Here’s the Vimeo description:

An exiled Pakistani poet finds fresh inspiration in his new home, while reflecting on the tragedy of partition that has left a legacy of war and strife in his beloved land. Fragments of a globalized world seem to coalesce here on fifth avenue, strung together in the poet’s mind.

Directed by Sofian Khan / Cinenmatography – Bob Blankemeier / Original Score – Joshua Green / Sound + Mix – Evan Manners / Animation – Will Clark / Makeup – Jackie Push / Starring – Arik Hartman

The English translation is by Annie Ali Khan. I couldn’t find a website for Hasan Mujtaba, but he’s active on Twitter.

شاعروں سے ڈرو / Be afraid of poets by Zeeshan Sahil

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Be afraid of poets –
they have a hand-grenade
made of dreams…

The late Pakistani poet Zeeshan Sahil “has often been praised for writing in a simple yet profound manner”—a simplicity admirably captured in this short film from Umang, directed by Fahad Naveed and narrated by Mahvash Faruqi with a performance by dancer Suhaee Abro.

Be sure to click on the CC icon for the English subtitles, translated by Nauman Naqvi, or click through to the Umang website to read the full text in English and Urdu.

امر گيت / A Song Everlasting by Attiya Dawood

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All the flowers in my country have been picked
And gunpowder planted instead.
Fragrance breathes its last
In a torture camp.
The very lane where hand in hand with you
I have danced to the music of peace,
There a death-dealer is spread-eagled.

Ammar Aziz directed this poetry film featuring Pakistani poet, writer, and women’s rights activist Attiya Dawood, accompanied by dancer Suhaee Abro. Be sure to press the icon marked “CC” at the bottom of the video to view subtitles in English, Sindhi or Urdu, or click through to the Umang website to read the text in all three languages.

ہمارے گھر کوئی آتا نہیں ہے / Nobody comes to our home by Abrar Ahmad

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Pakistani poet Abrar Ahmad reads his poem in this video from Umang, directed by Ammar Aziz. Press the CC (closed captioning) icon for the English translation by Zahra Sabri, and visit the video’s page on the Umang site for the complete original Urdu text as well as the translation.

Danatum Passu by Shahid Akhtar

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A completely captivating film by Pakistani filmmaker Shehrbano Saiyid about a Hunza poet named Shahid Aktar, and how a particular poem of his has been received by his primary audience — his fellow villagers. The film documents its recording by Zoheb Veljee, who has spent five years recording music in remote locations around the world.

Be sure to click the CC icon for the English translation of the (sung) poem. It’s also available in text form in English (translated by Nosheen Ali), Urdu, and the original Wakhi at the new website Umang, which looks very promising indeed — a platform for “poetic thought in multiple languages as well as in multiple formats – including text, audio, video, and art,” initially from Pakistan and South Asia. (They also welcome submissions to their moderated forum.)

Do read the biography of the poet on the site.

“So Heddan So Hoddan” (Like Here Like There): the Sufi poetry of Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai

The trailer for what sounds like a fascinating film about the survival of the poetry and music of the Sindhi Sufi Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai (or Bhitai), directed by Anjali Monteiro and K.P. Jayasankar. The trailer includes one of Bhittai’s poems. Let me just copy the description from Vimeo:

Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai, a medieval Sufi poet, is an iconic figure in the cultural history of Sindh. Bhitai’s Shah Ji Risalo is a remarkable collection of poems which are sung by many communities in Kachchh and across the border in Sindh (now in Pakistan). Many of the poems draw on the eternal love stories of Umar-Marui and Sasui-Punhu, among others. These songs speak of the pain of parting, of the inevitability of loss and of deep grief that takes one to unknown and mysterious terrains.

Umar Haji Suleiman of Abdasa, in Kachchh, Gujarat, is a self taught Sufi scholar; once a cattle herder, now a farmer, he lives his life through the poetry of Bhitai. Umar’s cousin, Mustafa Jatt sings the Bheths of Bhitai. He is accompanied on the Surando, by his cousin Usman Jatt. Usman is a truck driver, who owns and plays one of the last surviving Surandos in the region. The Surando is a peacock shaped, five-stringed instrument from Sindh. The film explores the life worlds of the three cousins, their families and the Fakirani Jat community to which they belong.

Before the Partition the Maldhari (pastoralist) Jatts moved freely across the Rann, between Sindh (now in Pakistan) and Kutch. As pastoral ways of living have given way to settlement, borders and industrialisation, the older generation struggles to keep alive the rich syncretic legacy of Shah Bhitai, that celebrates diversity and non-difference, suffering and transcendence, transience and survival. These marginal visions of negotiating difference in creative ways resist cultural politics based on tight notions of nation-state and national culture; they open up the windows of our national imaginary.

For more on the film and its directors, including some reviews, visit its website.

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