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Pakistani short film bags first prize at Girls Impact the World Festival

There’s a reason why teachers, college professors, prosperous entrepreneurs, celebrities and just about anyone successful tells us to follow our passions.

Turns out when you follow your passion, you put in more effort and end up succeeding! In a nutshell, that’s the story of Sarah Jehaan Khan who followed her passion to make films and recently won the first prize at Girls Impact the World Film Festival.

A student at Manfield College Oxford University, Sarah’s film Passoon (پاسون) is a short film based on a young climate activist in Dir, Pakistan named Manal Shad.

Passoon means to rise for a cause and that’s what Sarah’s film shows. It documents indigenous and innovative sustainability methods from Pakistan and celebrates the leadership of young, Pakistani women — voices that are internationally overlooked in the climate movement.

Sarah told Dawn Images that she decided to tell Manal’s story because she came across a video of Manal on social media where she was giving a speech to a congregation of men in Dir about social issues in her hometown.

“I immediately knew I wanted to get in touch with her, and once I managed to find her in Dir, I spent some days at her home and visited her school where I filmed Passoon. Seeing the impact individuals such as Greta Thunberg have had, I felt it was equally important to amplify the voices of young climate activists from developing countries such as Pakistan.”

Sarah chose to tell a story about climate change because she wanted to showcase the cost humans have to pay due to climate change and reveal how it poses a threat to basic human rights.

“Policy makers who watched my films said they had tears in their eyes, because they had never realised that increasing water scarcity means girls in developing countries cannot go to school since it is their job to fetch water everyday from miles away.”

Sarah particularly stressed on the price women or indigenous groups have to pay, which is far greater because of their vulnerability but telling this story came with its own set of challenges. She said that the greatest challenge while filmmaking Passoon was travelling and filming it in completely new and unfamiliar regions.

“Manal and her family were kind enough to let me stay at their house in Dir for the duration of the filming, which helped me do justice to her story.”

Fortunately, Sarah speaks Pashto and had no language barriers and could really connect with Manal and her family, which translated very well on screen too.

Although proud of her win, the greatest joy this prize brought to Sarah was that she was able to amplify the voices of young climate activists leading indigenous movements. She sees this win as an important lesson on how film and stories can impact people’s lives.

“This experience has made me appreciate the power film has in addressing, and even tackling global human rights issues such as climate change. I hope to continue using mediums of storytelling to address the reality of the risk climate change poses to basic human rights, but also to document innovative adaptation strategies from around Pakistan.”

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