Javaria Waseem’s view and overview of the world is through the lens of her camera and her writing. Her collection of photos, poetry, short stories, short films, and documentaries spans over several years, is a work in progress, and unfolds as an incisive insight into her range of interests. Filmmaking is her most special passion.
There is not much that Javaria, twenty-five, seems to miss when her camera is shooting the world around her. From Pakistan where she grew up in a home filled with love, warmth, and mutual support of her wonderful parents and three sisters and attended several schools to Paris where she did her postgraduation in film and arts with a major in directing and a minor in screenwriting, Javaria’s lens captures the reality of humanity without ever losing her emphatic empathy—one of the most significant aspects of her work. Violence against women, inattention to mental disorders, futility of wars, abuse against children, social pressures that curb individuality, threads of pain that unite across borders, and inclusivity that is beyond identity of nation, faith, and colour, Javaria’s work is an embodiment of that and more.
In 2017’s Karachi Literature Festival, Javaria’s Littering Is Not Allowed Here won the runner-up award for Best Documentary. In 2018, she was in Pakistan’s TechJuice’s list of 25 under 25. The Little Art, an arts education NGO in Lahore, placed Javaria in their 2020 list of 25 Under 25 In the first year of her college in Paris, she was awarded the Outstanding Crew Member for 2020-2021.
Stars in her eyes, learning and making films in Paris, one of the most beautiful, most magical cities of the world, and without losing her Pakistani identity and fundamental values, Javaria’s voyage of introspection and turning it into cinematic reflections is fascinating, glorious, never dull. One film at a time.
For Gulf News, I asked filmmaker Javaria Waseem a few questions.
Mehr Tarar: Why films?
Javaria Waseem: In simple words, making films bring me happiness. I see films simply as a medium to share stories. In a way, filmmaking takes all the different mediums of art and combines them into one product. From the script to production design to editing process, every decision you make reveals a part of the story that excites me a lot as an artist.
My family has always been huge cinephiles, so I was introduced to a lot of films while growing up. The first memory that I have of going to a cinema is when I was ten. The famous Pakistani director Shoaib Mansoor had made a film called Khuda Kay Liye, and it had become the talk of the town because of its blunt attack on religious extremism in the country. Despite the controversy, cinema halls were packed with people who either supported the idea, or were there just out of curiosity. It was the first time I had seen someone on the screen questioning traditions, culture, and the distorted version of religion. I learned that day how you can use this medium of moving images as an expression, and most importantly, as rebellion.
Your journey starting at Army Public School to a degree in Mass Communications from NUST Islamabad to studying filmmaking at Paris École Internationale de Création Audiovisuelle et de Réalisation (EICAR) sounds like a story from a film!
It does seem something out of a film when I look back at my journey. It wasn’t easy at all. I was a computer sciences student in school aiming to become an engineer until I stumbled upon media studies at NUST. Although several people, not just in my social circle but also academic network, advised me against the career choice I was making on the basis of my gender and possible “problems” I may face in the future. Despite that, I kept working hard, availing every opportunity that I found to learn and grow. Two years ago, after years of struggle and fighting the norms, I finally moved to Paris to get a postgraduate degree in filmmaking.
What is the best thing about studying at EICAR?
EICAR has been a challenging experience for me personally. I come from a background where I did not have the same kind of resources and opportunities as I found here. It took me some time to find my footing, but I managed to learn a lot in the last two years. The best thing about the school, in my opinion, would be the “Production Period” that we go through every year. It is basically months of back-to-back film shoots where we get to work in different production roles on different sets to learn all the aspects of making a film. Although it gets intense because you’re just eating, sleeping, and shooting films but it is worth all the trouble, to be honest.
Themes of your films and documentaries reflect a profound concern about the personal and social burden of living in a patriarchal society that follows a strict code of the dos and the don’ts, stripping individuals, especially women, of agency and autonomy. How does art in the form of cinema make sense of that?
For me, art, in whatever form, has always been personal. Whatever I have experienced or lived is, in one way or another, a part of the films I make. Due to the patriarchal society, I was growing up in, feminist ideas and thoughts have always occupied my mind since I was very young
When I started with writing poetry and short stories, I found myself circling and questioning the same norms of society again and again, especially the ones concerning women. They weren’t intended to have any political meaning; they were just a way to let out the frustration that I was feeling. With time and age, those feelings took shape of the films that I was making. I found it a very effective way to not only express myself but also use my voice to express concern and highlight the issues that silently rots our society. I hope to use the art of filmmaking to tell stories that matter, stories that are a rebellion, stories that may inspire another ten-year-old to continue the cycle.
As American director Kathryn Bigelow says, “If there’s specific resistance to women making movies, I just choose to ignore that as an obstacle for two reasons: I can’t change my gender, and I refuse to stop making movies.”