The film had its world premiere at the Busan International Film Festival in 2019, where it won the prestigious Kim Ji-seok award.
Set in Lahore, the film chronicles the chaos that ensues in the life of a staid, devout elderly man when a video featuring him gets uploaded onto social media.
After being cleared by the censor board, the film had its release in Pakistan in January disrupted when a political party said that the content was blasphemous.
“I did not make ‘Zindagi Tamasha’ to hurt, offend or malign anyone. It’s a story about a ‘good enough Muslim’ – there was/is no mention of a sect, party or faction of any sort,” Khoosat said in a letter he wrote to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in January.
“What was most important to me was exploring the idea of tolerance. Tolerance not just to others (to allow people to exist the way they are) but also tolerance to self – and this is where the concept of shame, need for approval, etc. come in to play,” Khoosat had told Variety at Busan. “I have been in situations where I have felt I should have been more tolerant of others and more accepting of my own self.”
The Academy Selection Committee was chaired by Pakistani filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, who has twice won the Oscar in the best documentary short subject category. She won in 2012 for “Saving Face,” sharing the award with Daniel Junge, and in 2016 for “A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness.”
“All the heartache that ‘Zindagi Tamasha’ gave me has somehow restored my faith in the power of art too: the sheer, almost physical power of art to make life imitate it,” Khoosat told Variety. “This announcement, for me, is a very bright light shining at the end of this dark tunnel of a year. No matter how far we go with this official selection, ‘Zindagi Tamasha’ will be representing all of us – our Pakistan. I feel honored on behalf of my entire team and I am extremely grateful to the committee for finding it worthy enough.”
Pakistan submitted films for Oscar consideration in 1959 and 1963 and then stopped. It began submitting annually again from 2013, but has yet to secure a nomination.
The 93rd Academy Awards will take place on April 25, 2021.