Director Zarrar Kahn On Cannes Pakistani-Canadian Horror Title ‘In Flames’

Director Zarrar Kahn On Cannes Pakistani-Canadian Horror Title ‘In Flames’
‘In Flames’ was the first South Asian Horror to premiere at the 76th Cannes Film Festival as part of the Director’s Fortnight. Directed by Zarrar Kahn, it tells the story of how after the death of the family patriarch, a mother and daughter’s precarious existence is ripped apart by figures from their past. They must find strength in each other if they are to survive the malevolent forces that threaten to engulf them.

Zarrar Kahn is an award-winning Pakistani-Canadian filmmaker who is an alumnus of the TIFF Talent Lab, Locarno Filmmakers Academy, Open Doors Locarno, Asian Film Academy and Director’s Lab program at the Canadian Film Centre. His works have been screened and awarded in over 70+ film festivals worldwide, including TIFF, Locarno, and BFI London. Born in Karachi, and currently based out of Toronto, Kahn is committed to telling stories that amplify historically marginalized communities.

Anam Abbas (Producer) is a Pakistan based Pakistani/Canadian filmmaker. She runs Other Memory Media. As a producer and DOP her first feature Showgirls of Pakistan, premiered in first appearance competition at IDFA 2020 and was released globally by VICE in Feb 2021. She is also the creator of Ladies only, a web series, and short films Saya and Lucky Irani Circus. Dagh Dagh Ujala (This Stained Dawn) is her debut feature documentary as a director. It premiered in international Competition at the Sheffield Doc fest 2021.

Shant Joshi (Executive Producer) is an award-winning producer and president of Fae Pictures, based in Los Angeles and Toronto, on a mission to decolonize Hollywood by creating cinematic content for, by, and about queer, trans, and BIPOC people. On his mission, his projects have won awards at Sundance, Berlin, Inside Out, and Bend, and premiered at festivals like Toronto, Aspen, Hot Docs, BlackStar, Bentonville, and BFI. Shant is currently Vice Chair of the BIPOC TV & Film Board, sits on the Canadian Media Producers Association’s EDI action committee, and sits on the Advisory Board at the Future of Film Showcase. He is an alum of the Canadian Film Centre, Rotterdam Lab, and Osgoode Hall Law School, and was named a Reelworld Trailblazer, nominated for an Indiescreen Award, and to York University’s Top 30 Changemakers under 30.

“I was born in Karachi. A city of thirty-odd million, where it is commonly known that a woman should not walk alone outside. Karachi is a microcosm of Pakistani society, filled to the brim with tender and violent desires. It is where I grew up, where I fell in love, and in the end, where I chose to leave. With In Flames I mean to explore the consequences of living in the confines of a fiercely patriarchal society. To illuminate the psychological impact of gendered oppression and the horror of being young and in love in Pakistan. To know the legacy of familial violence, and the desire to break free from the ghosts of our past. Inspired by my experiences, and those of my immediate circle, it is a reality where ordinary moments can draw terror, and phantasmal forces walk with us. In Flames means to draw you into the dusty beauty of Karachi, and witness the hard choices that must be made to survive another day. Ultimately, it is about resilience – and my tribute to the millions who refuse to let circumstance define them,” says Zarrar Kahn.

  1. How does it feel to be the first South Asian Horror at Cannes?

Zarrar: We have so many fascinating stories In South Asia, and I find genre to be a powerful tool to explore our lived realities, mythologies and folklore. I hope In Flames encourages other filmmakers from the subcontinent to play within the confines of genre, and create cinema that speaks to beauty - as well as the grotesque.

  1. In Flames is also Pakistan’s return to Cannes Director’s Fortnight after a gap of over 40 years. How does that feel?

Zarrar: In 1980, Director’s Fortnight was the first to bring Pakistani cinema to the Croisette, and it is humbling to know that In Flames will carry forward that legacy. Given the fragmented nature of Pakistan’s contemporary film industry, I wish that more filmmakers look to our history - and honour those who trailblazed before us. My hope is that in the next decade, In Flames, will be seen as one of many Pakistani films to find a home at Cannes.

  1. In Flames was funded with the help of Telefilm Canada’s Talent Fund, and is the first film from the micro-budget program to make it Cannes. How does that feel?

Zarrar: In Flames would not have been possible without the support of the Talent Fund, and I hope that the success of the film encourages Telefilm Canada to take bolder risks to empower first-time filmmakers.