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Pakistan Oscar Hope ‘Zinda Bhaag’ Heads to Canada, U.K., Middle East

Film is country's first Academy contender in 50 years

GOA — Directors Meenu Gaur and Farjad Nabi’s “Zinda Bhaag”, Pakistan’s contender for the foreign-language Academy Award race, has concluded distribution deals for the Canada, U.K. and Middle East.

All Canada rights including theatrical, television and VoD have been acquired by Toronto-based D Films, a distributor specializing in independent features that also has a multi-picture output deal with U.K. sales and distribution company, the Icon UK group. A January release is being planned.

Boutique distributor Mara Pictures has acquired U.K. television and VoD rights.

Regional powerhouse Tanweer Group has acquired Middle East rights and will release the film in the U.A.E., Kuwait, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt in December.

Though there are glimmers of a revival, the film industry in Pakistan is in poor shape and the country has only 42 screens for a population of 188 million. “Zinda Bhaag” released there in September and is still running in some cinemas, having recouped some $200,000 of its $500,000 budget. The film had a limited release in the U.S. in October.

Gaur and producer Mazhar Zaidi are in Goa for the National Film Development Corporation’s Film Bazaar and are in negotiations for an India release.

“Zinda Bhaag” is an illegal immigration comedy drama where three young men try and escape the realities of their lives in Pakistan. It stars veteran Indian character actor Naseeruddin Shah alongside Pakistani actors Amna Ilyas and Khurram Patras.

The film is Pakistan’s first entry to the Academy Awards after a 50-year absence. The filmmakers are realistic about their chances. Despite the excitement around the Oscar announcement, there has been no institutional or governmental support in Pakistan for the award campaign.

“For an indie film like ours, especially from a country like Pakistan that has no film industry to speak of, to lobby or to run a campaign, it is difficult. It requires too much finance. We are relying on some buzz for the film.” Gaur and Zaidi told Variety.

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