Good Morning Karachi


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Good Morning Karachi
"Ilyas, better known as a model herself, displays impressive range for what was only her second film."

When one is familiar with the frequently exploitative nature of the modelling industry, it can be difficult to understand why so many young women still rush to give it a try, but of course, for many, it's an obvious way to escape from the mundane world. In social spaces where there's little talk of career options for girls, the billboards are still visible. For girls who know only housework and care work and are waiting to be married off, they offer the prospect of a much more sophisticated life. At least until people start setting fire to them.

It's 2007 and the eponymous city is rippling with excitement at the prospect of the return of one of its most popular politicians, Benazir Bhutto. Although her fiance is a passionate supporter, Rafina (Amna Ilyas) isn't interested in politics, but she's not short on ambition. She wants to work. With a relative in the fashion business, she gets a job as an assistant without much difficult, and almost accidentally finds herself selected to pose in a photoshoot. The agency is looking for farm girl innocence but Rafina is no delicate flower - she bargains fiercely over her pay and conditions. The willfulness seems to charm people every bit as much as her beauty, and gradually things begin to take off.

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Nevertheless, her mother insists, she must marry. When she does, says her fiance, he will not permit her to have a job, let alone a career.

2007 is an important year. The excitement over Bhutto reminds us that Pakistan was already willing to accept a female leader, but working class women with no family legacy still had far to go - as, indeed, many do today. It was also a time when extremist attitudes about women were hardening, partly in response to their earlier gains, hence the burning of the billboards. Sumar's script does a good job of developing the background elements in Minhas' novel so that even viewers unfamiliar with the city and its history will get a feel for what's happening. It helps, of course, that the central story is quite slight, and this is where the film struggles a bit with believability, but the omission of any significant problems in Rafina's career leaves more room to focus on the domestic issues she faces.

This part of the story benefits from a fairly nuanced script, with even the traditionalist fiance allowed to be sympathetic on occasion. Ilyas, better known as a model herself, displays impressive range for what was only her second film. She provides an anchor in a meandering tale which doesn't always gel but which provides some intriguing snapshots of a time and place.

Good Morning Karachi is available on iTunes, Amazon and Google Play from 12 January.

Reviewed on: 10 Jan 2016
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Good Morning Karachi packshot
An ambitious young woman gets the chance to develop a modelling career but faces social pressure to abandon it.

Director: Sabiha Sumar

Writer: Malia Scotch Marmo, based on the book by Shandana Minhas.

Starring: Amna Ilyas, Yasir Aqueel, Beo Raana Zafar, Atta Yaqub, Saba Pervaiz, Afaq Nasir, Khalid Malik

Year: 2013

Runtime: 80 minutes

Country: Pakistan


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