The Western World has preconceived notions of the Muslim world, and more specifically the Muslim women, believing these women are repressed, suffering, and hopeless. The Other Half of Tomorrow shatters expectations by revealing the resilience, dreams, and ambitions, these women have not only for themselves, but for their beloved country, Pakistan.
The Other Half of Tomorrow by Sadia Shepard and Samina Quaraeshi which opened last nights Margaret Mead Film Festival is a series of short documentary portraits told in seven chapters. The chapters or vignettes are connected not by interweaving story lines, but by their shared dreams for the future of their country.
As the film opens you can’t take your eyes off of the screen, at first glance the viewer is taken aback by how visually stunning the film itself is. The cinematography is some of finest you willl see in a documentary. But this isn’t the reason the viewer doesn’t turn their eyes away from the screen. Strip away the glamorous shots and you have the raw and real truth about Pakistan and the women who live there.
In the first chapter, we meet a woman whose lived in Pakistan since it was founded in 1947. She paints a vivid picture of Pakistan’s past. She talks about Muhammad Ali Jinnah and his belief that women should be a part of Pakistan as a whole. This chapter allows us to understand Pakistan’s rich and unique history. As well as the vital role women played in government and politics.
In a chapter titled Straight Spines focuses on a woman who for the past 30 years has taught girls to dance. She not only dancers herself, but performs in public; not only as an artist, but as activist. Even though Pakistan prohibits women from performing in public. She believes that the simple act of a woman standing up straight, can empower them.
Yes, it is clear that there a lot happening in Pakistan. Honor Killings still exist, the belief that women should not be educated rings true, and that present Pakistan can go one or two ways. Instead of turning away from these issues, the women stare them down.
Each of the chapters tackles a different one, whether it’s political such as a woman who is fighting for the rights of the Christians minority. Or a human right. Like the two women, who believe in the power of educating women, as a means to not only provide for their families, but to let them know as women they have rights. The documentaries takes the viewer on a journey.
A journey that celebrates the Pakistani women, an exploration that shows each woman taking on an issue. Knowing that these matters don’t disappear overnight, and that for some of these changes may not occur in their lifetime. However, this doesn’t stop them in their fight.
In one of the final chapter the viewer is introduced to the Pakistan women’s cricket team. The takeaway is not so much the pride they have being women playing a professional sport, but the pride they have in representing their country. One of women remarks on the feeling she gets when she looks down and sees the star from the Pakistani flag on her jersey. To her it is one of the greatest honors.
As the final credits roll, without knowing it, the viewer realizes the documentaries tell the story of the past, the present and hope for the future of Pakistan.