My Pure Land

****1/2

Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

My Pure Land
"Structurally sophisticated, it plays with chronology of action and simultaneity of circumstance to create and build tension and strength and moments of wondrous beauty."

Nazo is a proud daughter, sister, a warrior - defending her land, her family, from those who would take her home. There are gender politics, issues with the dichotomy between the rule of law and natural justice, assumptions that right will prevail in the face of authority, authoritarianism, power and its abuses, but these are not didactic entreaties. They are born of subtleties, skill, talent.

Suhaee Abro's turn as Nazo carries the film, she inhabits it as fully realised and convincing as the spaces figurative and literal that Nazo does. Writer/director Sarmad Masud extracts from his cast naturalistic performances that help ground a film whose oneiric playfulness saves something so factually grounded from feeling like pedestrian documentary. Structurally sophisticated, it plays with chronology of action and simultaneity of circumstance to create and build tension and strength and moments of wondrous beauty.

Copy picture

In a film based (astonishingly) on a true story, there are also parables, stories within the story, a dreamlike intersection of a wedding party and bandit gunmen that is a breath-taking moment of cinematic abandon. There are flashes back, forth, and throughout a palpable tension. Never resting, always resisting, this is a tale of stunning defiance, one that showcases filmmaking skill and strength that is a worthy tribute to the actions of its inspiration.

With a soundtrack featuring Sufi songs, a brief role for an English-speaking doctor, a juvenile prison fixer, an ever escalating state of siege as a handful of bandits are reinforced to a marauding army, a dispute grounded in a narrow point of inheritance law, attempts to strike a balance between honour and survival, the complexity of its subject(s) is reflected in the complexity of the film's approach.

It's a powerful piece, a fitting feature debut. Back in 2009 Eye For Film saw Sarmad's first short, part of Channel 4's talent-incubating Coming Up scheme, the delightful Adha Cup, and it's overwhelmingly satisfying to see that my then hope for a feature has been repaid with a film as good as this.

My Pure Land is a gripping piece of imaginative film-making, one whose invention and power defy the connotations one would attach to a brief summary. It is accurate to say that Jalainur is the tale of a locomotive driver taking early retirement, but the smallness of that notion belies the complexity of what follows. Silent Light is about an extramarital affair in a Mennonite community, but that does a disservice to the magic of the film. While notionally a film about a land dispute in Pakistan (but that precis is more dry than the property in question, less fruitful, less powerful), this is a film as defiant of convention, of expectation, as its protagonist, an amazing expression of talent.

Reviewed on: 24 Aug 2017
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My Pure Land packshot
A mother and her two daughters fight to protect their home.

Director: Sarmad Masud

Writer: Sarmad Masud

Starring: Tayyab Ifzal, Suhaee Abro, Salman Ahmed Khan, Atif Akhtar Bhatti, Ahsen Murad, Sahib Ahmad, Eman Fatima, Razia Malik, Syed Tanveer Hussain, Malik Aslam

Year: 2017

Runtime: 92 minutes

Country: UK

Festivals:

EIFF 2017

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