The Pakistani Academy Selection Committee has selected Sarmad Khoosat’s Zindagi Tamasha as Pakistan’s official entry to the Oscars.

According to a press release, the film will be submitted for Oscar consideration in the ‘International Feature Film Award’ category for the 93rd Academy Awards. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will choose the final nominees for all award categories including International Feature Film in February 2021. The complete and final list of Oscar nominees will be announced on 15th March 2021 with the presentation show for the 93rd Academy Awards scheduled to take place on 25th April 2021.

Directed and co-produced by Khoosat and written by Nirmal Bano, Zindagi Tamasha features Arif Hassan, Eman Suleman, Samiya Mumtaz and Ali Kureshi in the lead roles. The film is centred around a naat khwan Rahat Khawaja (played by Hassan) and his family who are outcast from the society when a secret of Khawaja’s is leaked.

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The official synopsis states: “The film is an intimate portrait of a family as well as a scorching political commentary on little gods on this earth who police our private passions.”

Speaking about the selection, Sarmad said: “All the heartache that Zindagi Tamasha gave me has somehow restored my faith in the power of art too: the sheer, almost physical power of art to make life imitate it. This announcement, for me, is a very bright light shining at the end of this dark tunnel of a year.”

“I made this film in Pakistan and foremost, for Pakistan, for my people and the misfortune that my people have remained deprived of it weighs quite heavy on my artistic conscience. Some pride is slowly kicking in though and no matter how far we go with this official selection, Zindagi Tamasha will be representing all of us – our ‘Pakistan’,” he added.

The Oscar committee for 2020 was chaired by two-time Academy Award and Emmy winning filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and included musician Faisal Kapadia, director Asad-ul-Haq, filmmakers Asim Abbasi and Hamza Bangash, Syed Muhammad Ahmed, Mehwish Hayat, Hasan Shehreyar Yasin, Arshad Mahmud and Jamal Shah.

Asim, who directed the critically acclaimed Churails, said: “For me, Zindagi Tamasha is the strongest submission from Pakistan since 2013.”

It is pertinent to add here that Zindagi Tamasha has had a bumpy ride. It was initially scheduled to hit screens on January 25 this year but immense backlash from religious circles forced the federal and provincial government to stop its release.

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While the Federal Government had said that the film will be reviewed by the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), the Punjab Government had directed the filmmaker to hold a screening on February 3 so that the film can be reviewed again. However, no screening has taken place to date. It is pertinent to mention here that the provincial and central censor boards had earlier cleared the film for release with a few cuts.

At that point, Sarmad had made a heartfelt appeal to the Prime Minister, President, Chief of Army Staff and the Chief Justice of Pakistan to facilitate the release of the film.

Later, Chairperson of the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights and PPP Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar had taken notice of the ban and said that the committee will review the film. In July, the committee cleared the film and allowed it to be screened post-COVID-19.

Zindagi Tamasha premiered at the Busan International Film Festival held in October 2019 where it also won the prestigious Kim Ji Seok Award.

Watch trailer: