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Pakistani women doing the right thing?

Pakistani women doing the right thing?

Film Review: Conflict and choice in film Good Morning Karachi…

By Dr Tiffany Brown (pictured inset)

SABIHA SUMAR’S impressive film “Good Morning Karachi” is one that presents powerful social and political issues regarding the question, what does it mean to be a woman?

This film explores definitions of womanhood and femininity against the backdrop of “traditional values” and “modernity” in Karachi, Pakistan.

The main character Rafina grapples with accepting a life defined for her versus pursuing a life that she defines for herself.

You are left with little choice but to root for Rafina as she tries to reconcile the expectations of her mother, fiancé and culture with emerging depictions of women in Pakistan and her dreams to gain independence through a career as a fashion model.

Interestingly, the two worlds that Rafina is torn between are each depicted as imperfect and contain unique disappointments; we realise quickly that neither choice is the “land of milk and honey”.

One might ask what the message of relevance is for US women and women globally in a film chronicling the life of a Pakistani girl, and I would answer the “importance of choice”.

Looking at this film with a feminist sensibility, you recognise that freedom of choice is at the core of this story and freedom of choice is what links multiple forms of feminism for women across the globe.

Women worldwide deliberate daily between femininity, masculinity, career, independence, marriage, and family. Women are also choosing between constructions of womanhood that are assigned to them versus those that are creatively woven by them.

Even though I live in a societal context that is often depicted as promoting freedom I have struggled with making similar life decisions.  This “either or” paradigm stifles multiple expressions of humanness and ignores the celebration of women for accomplishments of courage when they craft their own personal definitions of what it means to be a woman.

This film motivates us to examine the ways in which people, women and men, live in ways that limit human choice and perpetuate the narrow definitions that culture holds for women. 

One of the most important elements in this film is the portrayal of the lead characters. They are complex, multi-dimensional and at times fraught with contradictions. 

It was empowering to see Rafina embody both femininity and strength, two characteristics that are often seen as oppositional.

She is beautiful and nurturing, yet tenacious and assertive in sticking to the pursuit of her aspirations.

It becomes evident as the film progresses that she is not simply striving for her own freedom, but she is also a champion for the unfulfilled dreams of other women.

Furthermore, she uses a career in modeling as the means through which to achieve liberation – which can seem somewhat conflicting as some might characterise this profession as adding to the oppression of women through objectification.

However, I beg to differ and offer the reminder that freedom is once again about choice. We also see paradoxes in the character of Rafina’s fiancé Arif, who exhibits progressive political views with his support for a female prime minister while still imposing sexist ideologies in his personal life.

It’s my hope that my review encourages people to go out and see this film, but I also hope that this commentary serves as a celebration of the choices that the film maker made in delivering a story that addresses the complexities of such pertinent issues.

“Good Morning Karachi” will certainly be one of my choices when assigning required viewing material for my future women’s studies courses as the film raises consciousness to a broader conceptualisation of feminism as well as the diverse vehicles women can use to further the agenda of equality.

*Good Morning Karachi  was screened at the South Asian International Film Festival in New York on December 7

Story on South Asian International Film Festival http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/us-award-siddharth-film/

About the reviewer

Dr. Tiffany L. Brown

Dr Tiffany L. Brown has a PhD in Child and Family Studies from Syracuse University and also holds a M.A. in Social Science and a B.S. in Psychobiology from Binghamton University. Currently, she is a full time professor at Montclair State University in New Jersey with area of expertise in family relationships, gender issues and adolescent development. Dr Tiffany also does television and radio appearances as well as consulting workshops on topics related to developing positive interactions within the family. 

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Written by Asian Culture Vulture