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Pakistan Re-Enters Oscar Race After 50-Year Absence

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, winner for her 2011 short docu, will head selection committee

Pakistan will submit an entry to Oscar’s foreign-language category after a gap of 50 years, though the committee has not yet chosen the film.

Each country is allowed one submission and can decide how that film can be chosen. The Pakistan committee has been formed independently and no approval was sought from the government, since it is not required by the Academy. The deadline for submitting foreign-language film submissions to the Academy is Oct. 1.

Chairing the committee is Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, who became the country’s first Oscar winner for co-directing (with Daniel Junge) the 2011 documentary short subject “Saving Face.” Also on the panel are writer Mohsin Hamid (“The Reluctant Fundamentalist”), helmer Mehreen Jabbar (“Ramchand Pakistani”), actor Rahat Kazmi, filmmaker Akifa Mian (“Inaam”), hyphenate Samina Peerzada (“Inteha”) and arts academic Framji Minwalla.

They will have plenty to choose from, as after a few dormant years, the Pakistan film industry is enjoying a revival, with 21 releases in 2013.

There is no stated government policy against Oscar participation. But it seems to have been a low priority, thanks to political turmoil and general lack of precedence within the film establishment.

The country has sent only two films to the Academy since the category was created in 1956: Akhtar J. Kardar’s “Jago hua savera” in 1959 and Khawaja Khurshid Anwar’s “Ghunghat” in 1963.

British-Pakistani helmer Hammad Khan, whose debut feature “Slackistan” was banned in Pakistan, told Variety this week: “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.”

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