Sunday, November 23, 2014

French perspective: Noor shines at French film festival

The film is shot in Hunza Valley, Shandur Pass, along Karakoram Highway, Lahore and Rawalpindi. PHOTO: PUBLICITY

Art imitates life in the case of ‘Noor’ — an independent feature film based on the life of a transgender by the same name. Fictionalised in parts, the film provides a rare insight into the life of the ambitious twenty-something who refuses to dub down to a tabooed existence and believes in realising his dream of companionship against all odds.
The film was screened at a two-day film festival ‘A French Filmmakers Perspective’ at the French embassy Friday evening. The festival introduces the new generation of French directors’ featured films inspired by social aspects of South Asia.
Brainchild of French-Turkish directorial duo, Guillauhme Giovanetti and Cagla Zencirci, the film follows Noor on a quest to be accepted and loved as a man. He no longer wants to be associated with the transgender community who he has lived with since he was a child and longs for a lasting romantic relationship with a woman who will accept him as he is.
Doing a man’s job in a truck decoration centre, he has made up his mind to search for that woman who will change his life forever. Riding a stolen truck, he travels uphill to a far flung lake which is fabled to have fairies that make wishes come true. With a burning desire to realise this dream, he drives over the rugged terrain through rain and shine, to meet Uzma who is reeling from the loss of her estranged husband.
United in their misery, they are an unlikely duo that makes perfect sense on the screen. Uzma’s delicate kathak moves and her husky by gentle voice is endearing, complementing the masculine persona of Noor.  Sitting by the lakeside overlooking snow-capped mountains, they epitomise new beginnings in a picturesque setting. Shot in breathtaking locations such as Hunza valley, Shandur Pass and along the Karakoram Highway, the film also integrates culturally-vibrant scenes from Lahore and Rawalpindi.
The widescreen, panoramic photography is surreal and comes alive with the powerful lighting and rich colours of traditional art and natural landscape. Like Noor, other intermittent characters such the dhol walla at a shrine and an old hospitable woman in a village up-north, are playing their own roles except for a drunk rapist who Noor escapes from in his truck.
Speaking about the filmmaking process ahead of the screening, the filmmakers said they had scouted people all over the country before they met Noor, who inspired them and agreed to play his part in the film. The duo who has been visiting the country for about a decade, took seven years to make the film. They said that their experience in the country was in stark contrast to the reasons that the country makes headlines for, adding that they were pleasantly surprised to meet the locals who they could relate with.
Emulating a fairy tale, the film also has a documentary feel and comes with its own share of loopholes. For example, how Noor conveniently traverses the 4,000 feet-high-peak to search for love and is not stopped or checked anywhere along the way. Also how Uzma, who is first shown as a runaway trekker, changes into pristine white costume and ghungroos to dance by the lakeside.
But all in all, it is a poignant tale of the perpetual search for one’s identity, living with grace and taking in stride the challenges that crop up along the way. However, for a subject so serious, the film is not overtly intense and comes with a light dash of humour.
Alia Zafar, an audience member, commented that the film was very touching and realistic. “Noor was a natural actor, he was so effortless and convincing,” she said.
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