Follow us behind the scenes with Halimah Tariq, whose short film follows Pakistani activist Fatima as she helps female bonded labor workers escape the pollution and disease of their abusive working conditions.
WE MET WITH THE FILMMAKER. HERE'S WHAT WE LEARNED.
The festival is less than one week away and we're more than excited for you all to watch and experience the eye-opening and life changing films in our program. We want our followers (you) to get a better understanding of the intelligent and proactive filmmakers in our program!
Here we have Halimah Tariq the filmmaker of ‘Fatima,’ a short documentary that follows the noble works of Ghulam Fatima in helping female brick kiln workers trapped in bonded labor escape the crippling effects of acrid pollution and devastating disease.
FATIMA is screening with the West Coast Premiere of GOLDEN FISH, AFRICAN FISH: One of the last areas of traditional fishing in West Africa is threatened by industrial development, housing shortages, and toxic work conditions.
Saturday, Sept 28
“My name is Halimah Tariq and I am from a beautiful country called Pakistan; by profession I am a Lawyer.
Filmmaking for me has always been my first love, I don’t ever remember a time I didn’t have a camera in my hand. I always noticed how there were various issues that did not seem to get the social traction they deserved; I wanted to bring these issues into the spotlight somehow and create the conversation they desperately needed to ignite change. All that’s really needed after all is a voice to be heard.
My first documentary was a short feature on acid attack victims that won me two awards at Harvard’s Girls Impact the World Film Festival. This was my turning point: I gathered the courage to pick up the camera full time and put my job as a lawyer on hold. I realized soon after that this was easier said than done; I faced many obstacles to my goal- I didn’t have a team, it was just me and my camera. No logistical support meant that I had to cut a lot of red tape, from arranging and coordinating meetings to tracking the people involved, regardless of risks. It was tough, and it was grueling, but it was definitely worth it.
I soon began producing my films, under the production house I created “Stories of the Soil”, highlighting the work of women who have made an impression in my country, Pakistan, through their social work. I wanted to be able to provide them with a global platform through my videos.
Ghulam Fatima was inspirational. She has been a part of the painstaking process to end bonded labour in Pakistan for years- rescue, rehabilitation, litigation and survival are just some of the core facets of her organization, BLLF (Bonded Labor Liberation Front).
What is now known as modern day slavery, bonded labour in Pakistan has trapped thousands of people, with more than half being women and children. Sadly, very few are aware of this- it is a verifiable taboo, muted with the silencing hand of those with the power to do so.
In filming ‘Fatima’, I Witnessed first hand the suffering of the workers on site, heard the retelling of their torture, pain and humiliation and conducted clandestine meetings with the workers at great risk of being caught. The whole experience was unbelievably distressful and shocking, however at the same time it left me with a feeling of renewed fervor for my cause.
The only problem was the overarching threat of backlash from the influential brick kiln owners responsible- I was repeatedly advised against creating this documentary. But this was a story that needed to be told, so I took a step in a different direction and decided to tackle the issue from another angle: apart from the glaring human rights violations prevalent, I noticed that the laborers were riddled with diseases due to the the environmental hazards there were exposed to every single day. I realized I could try to do justice to their story by tackling this issue from the environmental aspect, thereby addressing the glaring overlap between the environment and women’s issues.
I eventually went on to create my short feature, “Fatima”, which addresses the pollutive and disease mongering environment the laborers of the brick kilns are exposed to, and how Ghulam Fatima has tried to make their lives better until her greater objective is achieved-ending bonded labor in Pakistan.
CALL TO ACTION:
In speaking with Ghulam Fatima on her immediate requirements for the success of her mission, she highlighted the absolute importance of providing on ground medical assistance to the hundreds in desperate need of it at the kilns. It is imperative that this assistance is provided, as the laborers are rarely allowed to leave their place of work regardless of how immediate the emergency is and often succumb to their injuries because of it.
We are currently collecting donations to provide Ghulam Fatima with a well-equipped ambulance to achieve this goal.”