August 26, 2019  (Web Review)

Freedom Fighters

(2018) 33 min. In Urdu w/English subtitles. DVD: $79: public libraries & high schools; $149: colleges & universities. DRA. The Video Project (www.videoproject.com). PPR. Closed captioned.

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

Oscar-winning director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy (Saving Face, reviewed in VL-7/13) profiles three women freedom fighters in Pakistan through interviews and animated sequences that depict their galvanizing experiences. Tabassum Adnan, a women’s rights activist in Swat Valley, remembers marrying as a child. On her wedding day, she wore an embroidered dress that was so long it required several people to help fit her into a car. She wasn’t prepared for marriage or motherhood, but by the age of 20, she had three children, after which her husband abused her for the next two decades. She felt frustrated that no one who would listen to her, and—now divorced—set up a “jirga” or tribunal in 2013 consisting of female elders who help women resolve issues by hearing their cases, most of which involve domestic abuse. Some men predicted she would fail, while others threatened participants with harm. In time, however, even men have come to her on behalf of their daughters. Saima Sharif, a commando in the Pakistan Elite Force in Peshawar, assists the police (which first admitted women in 2014) with anti-terrorism operations. Sharif and her brother joined the force together, but he lost his life in a terrorist act. Here, she is seen in intensive training, shooting high-powered weaponry and rappelling off tall buildings. Syeda Ghulam Fatima, founder of the Bonded Labor Liberation Front in Lahore, concentrates on labor violations in the brick kiln industry, which accounts for a substantial number of Pakistan’s 4.5 million slave laborers. Since 1990, she has reduced that total by 80,000. While more personal information about these women would have been welcome, Obaid-Chinoy aptly summarizes their admirable efforts in this short documentary. Recommended. Aud: C, P. (K. Fennessy)