Dukhtar (2014, written and directed by Afia Nathaniel)
[No. 49 of 52 in #52FilmsByWomen]
Stories that take place in rural areas in the mountains of Pakistan are really rare. Most of the time, all we know about the society and region are almost always associated with wars and terrorism from the perspective of Western media.
Another thing we commonly hear about from (Western) news is the practices of child marriage among the religiously conservative societies. Here, lives and decisions are almost exclusively controlled by men. Dukhtar offers a new point of view, being told from the side of a woman named Allah Rakhi (Samiya Mumtaz), and her 10-year-old daughter Zainab (Saleha Arif). When Zainab is being offered as a bride to resolve a tribal conflict, her mother refuses to go along with it. Both mother and daughter runs away, while the father and the leader of the opposing tribe sends people after them. Along the way, the cross paths with a truck driver Sohail (Mohib Mirza), and the three of them make their way across Pakistan to avoid capture.
Sometimes, this movie is superficially similar to Mad Max: Fury Road, a movie that came out a year later. Both movies are about women who refuses to be treated as objectified commodities by their male rulers and escapes across desert plains on a big diesel vehicle, and helped by a random dude they ran into. While there might be valid arguments either way as to whether Fury Road is to be declared to be a ‘feminist action movie’, it’s pretty clear that Dukhtar is definitely one.
As the main plot kicks into gear, Allah Rakhi gains full agency and takes control of their escape. Nevertheless, her character is indeed a relatable, three-dimensional personality with as many flaws as virtues. Even if we didn’t notice the social issues and themes, the movie is still a pretty exciting adventure across a beautiful landscapes of Pakistan.