The Pakistani government is planning to increase the number of cinema screens from 127 to 1,000, a welcome boost in a country that has just 0.62 screens per million citizens.
According to Federal Minister of Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry, more cinemas will create 20,000 jobs and boost Pakistan’s film industry. In addition to that and with reference to increasing the number of cinemas, Chaudhry also wants to improve cultural cooperation between Pakistan and the United States. This was discussed in a meeting in Islamabad with US Charge d’Affaires to Pakistan Paul Jones.
While this move by the Pakistan Tehreek-E-Insaf (PTI) government looks like a step in the right direction and it is true too that it will prove vital to Islamabad’s crumbling economy and create more jobs, it seems like a case of choosing quantity over quality.
In order to revolutionize Pakistan’s film industry, there are certain factors that should be considered first. Otherwise, the new cinemas might end up being shut down due to lack of use.
Improving the content
While it is true that the Pakistani film sector has been revived to some extent since 2013 and better movies are being made than in previous decades, the industry still has a long way to go. Different narratives which may not cater to mainstream audiences should be promoted in Pakistani films in order to educate filmgoers, and humor disparaging marginalized groups should be discouraged.
The government and big private companies should fund filmmakers and small production houses, enabling them to make better and more original products, and more effort should be made to accommodate independent filmmakers.
If the Pakistani government and veteran production companies are able to provide a more accommodating environment for Pakistani filmmakers, they might be able to produce content that rivals Bollywood and Hollywood productions.
Quality education at film schools
There are very few film schools in the country and the most notable among them – the National College of Arts (NCA) and the Beaconhouse National University (BNU) – are located in the city of Lahore. The quality of education provided by these institutions is somewhat encouraging but it could be better.
Educational obstacles make it quite difficult for many aspiring filmmakers to break into the industry. More film schools should be established and instructors should teach students to think outside the box and step outside their comfort zone instead of discouraging them and telling them to simply pander to the masses.
Revamping the CBFC
The Central Board for Film Censors (CBFC) is one of the biggest obstacles to progress for Pakistan’s film industry. The fact that Pakistan is a culturally and religiously sensitive country cannot be ignored but the CBFC should not take extreme measures and must consider reasonable alternatives.
Pakistan also needs a proper rating system to determine what is suitable for particular audiences and the CBFC must work toward that goal. The CBFC simply banning films that do not align with the state narrative is not the solution. Instead, we must promote all narratives and let viewers decide for themselves what kind of content they want to consume.