Thursday, December 5, 2013

South Asian International Film Festival Review: ANIMA STATE - Javi's Take

Directed by: Hammad Khan
Starring: Uns Mufti, Malika Zafar, Osman Khalid Butt, Johnny Mustafa, Sobia Rasheed Khalid Saeed, Hammad Khan, and Waqas Ahmed.
Synopsis: A mysterious man in Pakistan goes on a killing spree and no one seems to notice. 

Social commentary is something that can be found in just about any movie. Each movie is a product of its time and in turn brings the baggage of the contemporary issues. Director Hammad Khan's second feature, ANIMA STATE, features a premise out of a B-movie: a bandaged man shows up in Pakistan with nothing more than a gun and a wallet and starts to kill people....with no one making a big deal out of it and just letting the killings continue. What follows is a rad exploration of the state of Pakistan.

The tricky thing about reviewing foreign movies is that one just does not have all of the knowledge of the political or sociological climate that might have influenced the film. ANIMA STATE is full of various references to problems in Pakistan like political unrest, power and gas outages, a mercilessly cold media machine, and technology eroding the human experience. We see our unnamed protagonist go from location to location trying to shine light to the crimes that he has committed only to be met with complete indifference. The most telling is when he tries to go to a news anchor's office, so he can break his story of killing (at that point) seven people. The news anchor's response? Total indifference, and he goes on to cite other more sensational news items.

The movie itself has a very purposefully disjointed feeling to it, and it seems to mirror the issues that its trying to comment on. The protagonist will be walking in a street, aimlessly wandering, and the movie will cut to Pakistani movies, or what looks like slowly burning pieces of film over dialogue. There are various hallucination sequences that make you question everything your seeing throughout the movie where people are acting completely out of the ordinary. It felt like a David Lynch influence to the movie in the best of ways.

However, the film is a bit too on the nose it is with its allegory and symbolism. It can get a little exhausting realizing that nothing you're seeing is literal yet trying to assign meaning to everything. Keep in mind that this is a minor complaint that doesn't take away from the message and the experience of seeing this movie.

ANIMA STATE is a very confident second feature by director Hammad Khan. The methods that he uses to tell this story between the symbolism, the constant trippy interludes, is a unique experience. While it would be unwise to assume Khan's intent with this movie, it was interesting to see that the issues that are plaguing Pakistan actually apply to the United States and the rest of the world.

ANIMA STATE had its world premiere at the South Asian Film Festival, and you can find more information here.

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