Directed by Sarmad Masud Starring Suhaee Abro, Eman Malik, Syed Tanveer-Hussain
Film Review by Annie Vincent
A stark portrayal of a young girl’s struggle against corruption and oppression in rural Pakistan, My Pure Land is an important and insightful film based on a true story.
Following his death, Nazo must fight to defend her father’s honour and his house as it comes under siege from her uncle, Mehrban, and his hired group of bandits. The narrative utilises flashback to explore the feud which led to this day. In short, Mehrban believes he rightfully owns the house and land Nazo’s father holds the deeds to. Hell bent on taking the house for himself, Nazo’s uncle goes to dark and extreme lengths to destroy his brother. What he doesn’t count on is the strength of Nazo and the other women in this family.
Suhaee Abro has brought the character of Nazo to life beautifully, conveying defiance and strength but also revealing those inevitable human weaknesses with little support from the script. In fact, Nazo is almost devoid of emotive language. Purposeful and resilient, she focuses on the task at hand and nothing else. Even when discussing her marriage to Zulfiqar she remains pragmatic, telling him she is happy to marry him so long as she can learn, work, travel and they can live in her father’s house. Zulfiqar jokes he might need another wife, one who will have time for him while she’s off travelling and in this way, the script offers small moments of humour as relief from the bleak reality of this woman’s story.
From the outset, our protagonist is armed with an AK47 and the juxtaposition of this dense and heavy weapon against the small frame of Abro and the elegant beauty of her traditional dress is stark, yet reminds us of the cold and often brutal world we live in. The audience immediately engages with this character who knows her own mind and values and will not compromise those at any cost. In a world where women still suffer inequality, Nazo stands as a beacon of hope and will certainly appeal to audiences as such.
The conclusion of My Pure Land was a little disappointing. After a well-thought out narrative which slips easily between past and present, the final confrontation between Nazo and her uncle leaves us with unanswered questions. The police, who we’ve learned are corrupt, arrive and demand Nazo leave the house. She gives a bold speech refusing to hand the house over, shouting in defiance that this is ‘her land’, but the camera then fades to black and we read the captions which tell us Nazo and her family remain in the house to this day. The story of how she fought back against the bandits and the corrupt officials who try to depose her is all lost, and we are left wondering how she overcame such odds as an unmarried woman in Pakistan. And whilst the answer may not have been as exciting as positioning yourself on a balcony and firing an AK47, it is those struggles that many women face and which many women need to see overcome.
Overall Masud has delivered an interesting and well-scripted narrative. The casting in Abro is excellent and she is well supported by Tanveer-Hussain in the role of her father. The camerawork has also been carefully thought-out with a lot of the work being done at low level to replicate the ducking and weaving Nazo and her family must do to defend their home. But the sense that there is more to tell in this story pervades and may leave audiences a little unsatisfied.
My Pure Land is in UK cinemas September 15th 2017.