A cross-border documentary film by film-makers Miriam Chandy Menacherry and Maheen Zia is making waves at international festivals the world over. Their documentary film, Lyari Notes , traces the lives of a group of girls for three years as they learn to express themselves through music.
The film received rave reviews when it premiered recently at the International Documentary Filmfestival Amsterdam (IDFA).
The film will be screened at the Bangalore International Centre on July 16. “I am a Bengaluru girl. I studied at Sophia High School and Mount Carmel College. I have a deep connection with the city,” says Miriam Chandy Menacherry, who is also known for her 2011 film The Rat Race . Maheen Zia is from Karachi in Pakistan.
The two women filmmakers believe in the power of music, which, says Ms. Chandy ‘has the ability to melt boundaries and build bridges of understanding’. Their film documents the lives of four girls from Lyari, in Karachi, who enrol in Pakistani rock star Hamza Jafri’s popular music school MAD (Music Arts and Dance).
In real life, Jafri is a popular musician.
His band co-VEN is known for its strong social and political commentary through its music.
His guitar school in Lahore was born when musicians and artists saw their space shrinking, as they felt intimidated by extremist groups, explains Ms. Zia. “The film was shot in real time with real characters and therefore is a ‘document’ of it's time that can be used to understand and archive the lives of people,” she says.
Jafri’s programme, devised for children, at his school in Lyari gave Ms. Chandy and Ms. Zia a chance to ‘capture the stories of two contrasting social contexts under one roof, and helped create a dialogue between the orthodox and liberal value systems at play’.
“Maheen shot the film with a very small crew over three years,” says Ms. Chandy, who is currently based in Mumbai. “She relied on the families in Lyari to tell her when it was safe to shoot, as we were working with minors. There were days when there were shoot-outs and we were confined to filming indoors,” she recalls.
Lyari Notes uses many elements, including music, music videos and news broadcasts, to create a layered narrative structure, say the directors. “The film mirrors the side of Pakistan rarely shown through the perspective of children growing up in complex circumstances,” says Ms. Chandy.
With the growing threat of terror attacks the world over, Lyari Notes is the voice of the silent majority of peace-loving citizens in Pakistan who are not heard because of the roar of guns and violence, she says.