MY PURE LAND [Edinburgh International Film Festival]

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When their scheming uncle decides he has a right to their rural Pakistan home, teenage sisters Nazo and Saeda attempt to fight off his invaders with the help of their mother and their brother’s friend. With their neighbours warned off from providing assistance and the corrupt local police offering no help, they are truly on their own in their fight to survive and protect their home.

 

You can say one thing about My Pure Land: it does not mess about. The bullets begin flying mere minutes into the film, and the claustrophobic intensity of the situation is made apparent soon after. Although the size of the girls’ farmhouse and its outer walls function pretty well as a fortress, they are trapped within as much as the army of bandits are denied entry, and what was expected to be a simple claiming of property swiftly escalates into a full-on siege.

 

The action is regularly punctuated by flashbacks detailing the circumstances that led to them becoming a house of women, also showing the girls’ interactions with their father, who raised them with love and affection, ensuring they developed independent minds and notions of honour. The contrast between their characters at the two points in time is stark, particularly with elder sister Nazo, who forces her own transformation from idealistic girl to stoic warrior, taking responsibility for the home’s defence despite her youth.

 

Although it may not have been intentionally made as one, the film feels very much like a western, and certainly has all the hallmarks of one. The isolated setting, the outnumbered heroes, the ruthless villain and the faceless henchmen all echo the likes of Assault on Precinct 13, or that film’s progenitor Rio Bravo. However, this true story is a far cry from the macho overkill of such films. Bullets are used sparingly and are very much a finite resource nobody can afford to waste, and it is acknowledged that despite what action movies would have us believe, taking a life is not something to be done lightly.

 

The story suggests that land is not just a patch of dirt where you live, it’s also the life you’ve led and represents the potential for everything you hope the future could become, shown most clearly in one shot of bandits advancing across a field juxtaposed with Nazo’s memories of the happiness of a wedding that took place there. The defence of the sisters’ home is not just meeting a militant enforcement of a property dispute, but a fight for their right to live in peace, and as time wears on and despair begins to set in, you begin to wonder how the story can end in anything other than tragedy.

 

An important story beautifully told that highlights the inequality of Pakistan’s patriarchal society, My Pure Land is exciting, tense, uplifting and tragic, and uncompromisingly grips you right up to its final moments.

 

MY PURE LAND / CERT: TBA / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: SARMAD MASUD / STARRING: SURAHEE ABRO, EMAN MALIK, SYED TANVEER HUSSEIN, RAZIA MALIK, ATIF AKHTAR BHATTI, TAYYAB AZFAL, AHSEN MURAD / RELEASE DATE: TBA

 

Expected Rating: 7/10

 

Actual Rating:




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