For its first film of the spring season, the Vernon Film Society is screening Dukhtar, writer-director Afia Nathaniel’s debut feature and Pakistan’s official entry for Best Foreign Language Film in last year’s Oscars.
Dukhtar (Daughter) depicts the unfortunately accepted practice in Pakistan of a child being given away for marriage to settle a blood feud.
The film begins with 15-year-old Allah being given to the older tribal chief Daulat Khan (Asif Khan). Ever since the marriage, she has been completely separated from her family and has not been able to finish her education.
Later, a now grown Allah Rakhi (Samiya Mumtaz) learns that Daulat has promised their daughter, Zainab, as a wife to an enemy tribal leader in his 60s as a peace offering. Allah Rakhi takes Zainab and runs, but where can a woman go when she and her daughter have no right to make their own decisions?
As well, Allah Rakhi has no way of making her daughter understand why they are running. Zainab is still playing with dolls and the sidelong hints given of the pain, both physical and emotional, that Allah Rakhi has suffered in her married life have absolutely no meaning for the little girl.
After a harrowing escape from their home, the mother and daughter come upon truck driver Sohail (Mohib Mirza), who reluctantly agrees to help them escape even as they are being chased by Daulat’s men.
Director Nathaniel has said, “The mother’s journey into the unknown (raises) important questions about the price we are willing to pay for freedom, dignity and love in a time when modernity, tradition and fundamentalism have come to a head. Every year, around the world, nearly 15 million girls lose their childhood to marriage and for me this is an unacceptable reality. And so the determination to make the film and have it seen by audiences never left me.”
Dukhtar screens Monday, April 18 at the Vernon Towne Cinema at 5:15 and 7:45 p.m. Tickets are available one week ahead at the Towne and the Bean Scene for $7. Cash only.