Kami Sid, Pakistan’s first transgender fashion model, has already made a name for herself in film media. Her short film, Rani, won a Jury Award for Special Impact at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival (LAAPFF). She’s now gearing up to shoot her next short. PakistaniCinema.Net caught up with the model cum actress to talk about how things are moving forward with her next project.
The yet untitled project, according to Kami Sid, is about a trans love story, among other things. This is quite an unconventional topic not just for Pakistani Cinema, but World Cinema, one may expect it to be very different in terms of script and execution.
Kami Sid is adamant that this won’t be a musical.
“It may include a song, but the length of a short film doesn’t allow for the typical elements of a romantic film.”
The film is also being made to cater to the sensitivities of international film festival audiences, so it will probably not feature the dance numbers common to Pakistani romances.
Kami Sid and her friend from Lahore, Khursand Bayar Akhtar, have written the script together. While the story doesn’t draw on her personal life, it does draw from the personal lives of many in the Pakistani transgender community. Kami and Khursand both interviewed many trans people to give their script more layers and depth.
The central theme, that of love, seeks to show how trans people, just like all of us, fall in love, despite all the persecution they face and the lives they lead, isolated from society at large.
“It’s something that happens in everyone’s lives, no matter who they are.”
As for the “other things” that the film will focus on, Kami hopes to highlight the gender based discrimination that trans people face in their daily lives. She also hopes to show people the femininity that a transgender woman can exhibit.
While a deeper exploration of trans love may be very welcome at film festivals, it may not be the most commercially viable subject for a mainstream Pakistani film. That being said Kami Sid is optimistic about breaking new ground through her short.
“People loved my previous short, Rani, as well. So I’m hoping this new film will be received well too.”
The transgender-intersex community has broken ground in Pakistan recently, especially with the passage of the Trans Rights Protection Bill in 2017. Yet obviously, social acceptance and breaking taboos in one’s personal life is another matter entirely. Art has always had an influence when it comes to swaying people one way or another. Film and music excel at changing hearts and minds. This is exactly what Kami Sid hopes her endeavours will do.
“One has to be careful about the kinds of techniques we employ to get our message through to the audience, so that they can digest it easily enough.”
Kami Sid speaks true. The challenge to get a film by the censor board is quite real in Pakistan. Since the new wave has begun, quite a few films have been either completely or partially banned in Pakistan. Some low profile flicks like ‘SwaaRangi’ and some high profile flicks like ‘Maalik’ and ‘Durj’ have also faced the wrath of the censor boards. Currently, ‘Zindagi Tamasha’ is languishing in film purgatory. Even though it was cleared by the censor board, grievances against it piled up and it was ultimately not released in theaters. A recent release date seems uncertain at best.
“The government and the proper authorities should ensure that films aren’t blocked. Films simply show what occurs in real life after all.”
Yet at the same time, Pakistani filmmakers are experimenting more and more with different subjects. ‘Laal Kabootar’ and ‘Durj’ as well as ‘Cake’ and ‘Saawan’ in previous years have tackled wildly non-commercial subjects. While some of these push the envelope further than the others, all of them are attempts to break away from the norm. With her own short, Kami Sid is attempting to do the same.
“If we had our way, we’d take our short film to Cannes or the Oscars. At the moment, the story has been completed, and the screenplay is being crafted.”
Auditions will soon be underway to cast for the principle roles and Kami Sid hopes to cast trans people for those roles as transgender actors are a rarity, specially in Pakistan.
The untitled short film is being slated for a release at film festivals by the end of 2020, or at the latest, during early 2021.