LENS Exclusive: Interview with Award-Winning Pakistani Filmmaker Shayhaq Baloch

His short film, ‘Chamm: The Trick’, premiered at the Muslim Film Festival in Melbourne, Australia, this month.

Filmmaking is a very visceral process, requiring its ‘pound of flesh’ from the artist in return for a final product that engages people. It is oftentimes a lonely and bleak art that demands that the artiste be completely vulnerable and honest, for only in its purest form can the vision of the creator be distilled onto the screen in a way that resonates with the audience.

One such artist who has undertaken this path is Shayhaq Baloch, who believes in capturing the extraordinary in the mundane. With his latest offering Chamm: The Trick, he is already making waves around the world.

Shayhaq Baloch

Lens spoke exclusively to the young filmmaker who is in his mid-20s about his passion and experience as a filmmaker.

Q. Tell us about your new movie.

Our new film, Chamm: The Trick, which was shot in April 2021, was finalized by September. It was promoted and shown at international film festivals. Its story revolves around the main character’s struggle to survive in war-ridden Afghanistan.

The film has been screened in more than 20 countries and was screened in Melbourne on 6 November 2022.

Chamm: The Trick has already bagged awards in various categories, including Best Actor, Best Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Film, etc., and won second prize at the Reconnect Films Award in Lahore.

Q. What was the inspiration and what outcome are you hoping for?

I believe every story is important and I want to bring them to the big screen. I don’t discriminate between stories.

We try to promote minimalistic stories which don’t get as much air-time as they deserve and have not been able to be shown to a wider audience. I’m interested in stories that teach a lesson, are able to shape the minds of people. Because I feel that films are able to change people. I myself am proof of that, and I want to do the same through my films and bring a positive change in people.

Q. Tell us about your process of making movies.

The process is almost the same everywhere. We start with pre-production. Then the script gets made and then we edit it during post-production to create the complete film.

But the difference between a big-budget film and an independent film is that the latter is made on a ‘zero budget’. We don’t have fancy actors, locations, or costumes, and cannot avail ourselves of many things because of the lack of funds. We spend whatever we can through our own personal budget.

For example, for Chamm, we traveled all the way from Karachi to the Chaman border and shot the movie in three days, and we went back after five days and the whole budget was Rs. 30,000, which was a milestone for our team — that we were able to make a film with such a small budget.

Chamm: The Trick

Q. Tell us about Chamm: The Trick’s selection for the film festival and what your hopes are for it.

It has gotten me much love and respect. I hope that people watch it and understand it. I don’t mind if they don’t like it; just the fact that they are watching and liking my film is a huge satisfaction. I’m very surprised that people like that story. I hope that we make more stories and those films get me more love.

Q. What sort of movies/documentaries do you make and how long have you been in this profession?

I’ve been making films, documentaries, and movies for the last eight years.

I want to tell those stories that are not being shown in mainstream media. That’s what we’ve been working on so far. We made a short documentary on a nine-year-old shepherd in Sibbi in Balochistan, about the hardships, the happiness, and the life he led.

We made a documentary on the floods that wreaked havoc in Pakistan. We made a short film on web warriors, the social media warriors, it was a 60-second short film that went to many international film festivals.

We also made music videos, that revolve around songs. Although we don’t have much control over it as opposed to scripts and films, we did 20 projects over the last eight years, many of which were commercial. But it’s the independent projects that we hold close to our hearts because we did them solely with our own sweat and blood.

Q. Tell us about your previous achievements in the field. How many other film festivals have your movies been chosen for?

Around ten of our films made it to the film festivals. They were selected, nominated, and won awards.

Right now, we are planning on making a short film on the flood situation, so lets see what comes of it.

Q. As a Baloch, have you faced any challenges in your work and how did you overcome them?

I won’t say that I’ve faced challenges. Maybe I’ve been privileged but yes, as we don’t have facilities in our own province, we have to travel to other provinces like Sindh and Punjab.

I did my Bachelor’s degree [in Media and Communication Studies] in Islamabad. Alhumdulillah, I was lucky to be able to go there and get equipment.

As a Baloch, it was difficult for me to leave my home for four years, but I know people who are fighting to get education, who are waging a war all their lives because they have to travel from far off places just to get education. They travel by roads, they don’t have the resources and still they persist.

As a Baloch, filmmaking gave me an edge because my people are very appreciative of arts, any kind of art. They actually love it and support us to make more. Till now, whatever I’ve made, it has been through the support of people around me who have helped me. On my own, without their support, I cannot imagine doing this.

Q. What more can we look forward to from your work? 

I hope we shoot something in early December and release it by March or April 2023. We haven’t gotten to the production of the film so it’s still too early to talk about it.

An Inspiration for Aspiring Pakistani Filmmakers

While talented filmmakers from Pakistan making it to the international level have been few and far in between, it is safe to say that the future of the industry is in the safe hands of dedicated professionals like Shayhaq Baloch.

Shayhaq Baloch is an inspiration to every Pakistani aspiring filmmaker looking to pursue their dreams, and we hope he continues to make more award-winning films that will make Pakistan proud of him.


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