[Express Tribune] How a student documentary changed lives in Hakimwala village, Punjab

The following excerpt is from the article "How a student documentary changed lives in Hakimwala village, Punjab" published by The Express Tribune:

Sharif, 28, has lived his whole life as a farmer in the remote village of Hakimwala in Punjab. As debts surmount his life and the crops are infected with pests the elders encourage the village’s young men to travel abroad and make money to fix thing at home.

Sharif’s family dynamics do not help his cause much. As the only one who can drive the only vehicle in all of Hakimwala, he can often be seen driving his neighbours back and forth whenever they need.

But residents of Hakimwala must part with their hero, and so, Sharif sells off his Suzuki Mehran and the remaining lands to embark upon a journey to Dubai. It is this journey that debut director Syed Owais Ali has documented in Pakistan: No Place like Home. The film was picked up by international news channel Al Jazeera English just recently.

The documentary follows Sharif as he leaves Hakimwala and enters a foreign land for the first time in his life. Ali, a Pakistani student at Northwestern University in Qatar aims to shed light on the plight of migrant workers in the international media with the project.

Speaking with The Express Tribune, Ali revealed his university had started offering documentary grants back in 2014 and he was the first student to receive one. And so, Pakistan: No Place like Home came into being. “Before moving to Qatar, I lived in Dubai with my family and often interacted with the migrant workers there. Unsurprisingly, each one of them had a story to tell and I didn’t appreciate the way they had been presented in the international media,” recalled Ali. “I feel like they are just talked about as numbers or statistics. What I have attempted to do through my film is to humanise their story.”

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