By: Kruti Mehta
“Amidst the devastation started the media circus: recaps of the attack, journalist interviews with victims, the school’s next plan of action in order to prevent future attacks.” – Muneeb Khan
Danial Afzal’s, The Survivor, is a captivating short documentary that follows the mind of a young man who survived the Taliban’s attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar, Pakistan. The incident occurred on December 14, 2014, in which the main character, Muneeb Khan, lost his brother, Shaheer. His family is still suffering from the demise of their son, and Muneeb is battling his PTSD while attempting to find his purpose.
The story starts out with a vivid description of the day of the massacre. 132 kids were shot dead to make a statement: the Taliban rules all and cannot be stopped. We see someone search the aforementioned school on Google, only to find images of violence and death. Khan’s mother, Shagufta, recalls the day she forfeited Shaheer, and how she felt seeing her elder son come home from the bloodbath. Various interviews with the family reiterate their sadness and shock as the narrator continues his journey throughout the film.
Muneeb recollects his emotional state the day his brother died, describes the after effects of seeing his peers fall in a pool of their own blood, and illustrates his daily struggle to battle his post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The narrator makes the viewer feel the family’s pain and Khan’s inability to bear life with his survivor’s guilt. Dr. Mowadat, a psychiatrist and professor, shares his opinion on the narrator’s state of mind, and how to heal the families of the victims after such incidents occur.
If the blood of the children, the tears of the family, and Muneeb’s dream isn’t enough to move audiences, Afzal’s choice of score will inspire emotion in viewers. It brings the documentary together and makes them empathize with the main character.
Living in a country prone to terrorism, Khan aspires to follow his passion by creating games that help combat PTSD, and teach Pakistan’s youth basic survival skills. He feels that by choosing this field of study, he is giving honor to his late brother’s memory, rehabilitating himself, and finding his purpose in life. The documentary portrays a deep look inside the mind of Muneeb, which mirrors the mind of many adolescents in Pakistan. The makers of The Survivor hope to inspire social change within the nation.
The entire story is told in the form of a personal statement, not only for the artistic appeal, but for the director’s and producer’s’ end goal of helping Muneeb gain admission into a game design program. Afzal and team aim to potentially acquire scholarships and financial aid to fund Khan’s degree program; they hope his vision and his story touches the hearts of numerous university officials.
This film has won Best Concept Documentary at the FiLUMS Festival in Lahore, Pakistan, premiered at the Ismailia Film Festival in Cairo, Egypt, and has been shortlisted to premiere at the International Children’s Rights Festival in Bursa, Turkey. Danial Afzal and his team have applied to multiple festivals across the globe and anticipate acceptance into many more. Afzal hopes the story takes off worldwide, and eventually leads to Khan’s success. Ultimately, The Survivor was a tremendous success. Bravo!