Director Hammad Khan with actresses Aisha Linnea Akhtar and Shahana Khan Khalil. Image Credit: Alex Westcott/Gulf News

It was not supposed to get this big. It started out as a series of fond discussions between Slackistan director Hammad Khan and his co-writer/producer wife about life as a 20-something in Pakistan. But somewhere along the way, it turned into a movie.

"I grew up in exile from Pakistan and I always had this romantic fantasy about life there. We [cast and crew] are all from Islamabad and I wanted to do a film about our hometown and this is what came out," Khan said.

The story revolves around a group of friends who discover that life is much more complicated than expected, causing them to lose their passion and settle for less, at least for the time being.

Creating the film was a tricky experience as the cameras and equipment had to lugged around in rucksacks and hidden in various locations around Islamabad.

"Filmmaking is strictly forbidden in Pakistan. We faced a lot of challenges creating Slackistan because we had to always make sure that we weren't caught filming. Sometimes, we would stash the camera in a specific location, such as in the bushes and once we were sure no one was looking, we would quickly set up the microphones and shoot," Khan said. "Another issue was the budget, but we managed to keep most of it under control by hiring friends and family to play the different characters, which was a fun experience for everyone," he added, smiling.

"Hammad contacted me when I was 19 and living in Islamabad. When he explained what the film was about, I agreed because there was nothing else to do at the time," said Aisha Linnea Akhtar, who plays one of the two female characters in the film.

For Shahana Khan Khalil, agreeing to act in Slackistan was a way to send a message.

"I strongly believe in the idea of film being one of the most inspiring media forms available today. In Pakistan, even though we don't have any cinemas, and most don't speak English or are well-off, everyone has a television set, which is something that surprises a lot of people," Khalil said. "I think movies should be one of the things in Pakistan that needs serious investment. People can not only be entertained but also can become aware of various issues," she added.

Slackistan is competing in the festival's New Horizons competition.