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Last updateTue, 17 Mar 2015 2pm

Pakistan set to make Academy Awards submission after 50-year hiatus

Pakistan is to submit an entry for Best Foreign Language Oscar for the first time in 50 years.

The film will be chosen by a distinguished creative panel led by filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy - who became her country's first Oscar-winner for the 2011 documentary 'Saving Face' - and which includes Booker-nominated author Mohsin Hamid, directors Mehreen Jabbar and Akifa Mian, actors Rahat Kazmi and Samina Peerzada and academic Framji Minwalla.

Pakistan has sent only two films to the Academy Awards since the foreign language film category was created in 1956 - Akhtar Kardar’s ‘Jago Hua Savera’ in 1959 and Khwaja Khurshid Anwar’s ‘Ghunghat’ in 1963.

Each country is allowed one submission and it can decide how the film is chosen.

The Pakistan committee was formed independently and its existence has been kept under wraps, with the government having no role but apparently giving its okay.

The deadline for submissions in the foreign language film category is 1 October.

The country's once-dormant film industry has enjoyed something of a revival in recent years with 21 releases so far this year, with many films being screened at festivals around the world.

The recently-concluded London Indian Film Festival (LIFF) featured Iram Parveen Bilal's "Josh", the first Pakistani film to be screened at the annual festival.

There is no stated government policy against Oscar participation in Pakistan but the issue seems to have been a "low priority" because of political turmoil and a “general lack of precedence within the film establishment”, Variety reports.

British-Pakistani director Hammad Khan, whose debut feature ‘Slackistan’ was banned in Pakistan, said: “Pakistan has not officially submitted any films for the Academy Awards consideration in 50 years because the state has never taken film seriously, neither as a cultural art form nor as a valuable communal experience.

“In all those years, Pakistan has been so preoccupied with coups, wars and religion that cinema has only been reduced to low entertainment by the powers-that-be. It is, of course, monumentally idiotic to ignore the power of cinema in the development of any nation’s narrative.”

- Agencies

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