ISLAMABAD (AFP) – Pakistan has put forward a film for the Oscars for the first time in nearly 50 years as its struggling film industry shows signs of revival, officials said Monday.
"The Pakistani Academy Selection Committee has selected "Zinda Bhaag" as the first Pakistani film in over fifty years to be submitted for Oscar consideration in the 'Foreign Language Film Award' category at the 86th Academy Awards," a statement issued by the selectors said.
In addition to Zinda Bhaag (Flee Alive), a further three films were submitted to the committee for consideration: Chambeli, Josh and Lamha.
The selection was made last week through secret ballot and Zinda Bhaag was the "overwhelming film of choice of the Committee members".
The film is a comedy-thriller about three young men trying to escape the drudgery of their everyday lives through the use of unconventional methods available to them.
The movie hits the cinemas on September 20.
The film's narrative is familiar to everyday Pakistanis. The protagonists have unfulfilled desires to achieve feats that are out of their reach and a yearning to prove themselves despite the hurdles places before them.
Yet an inescapable sense of melancholy sets in when they discover their opportunities are dictated by forces outside of their control.
The film is directed and written by Meenu Gaur and Farjad Nabi, and is produced by Mazhar Zaidi. It features Indian born Bollywood stalwart Naseeruddin Shah, as well as Amna Ilyas and Khurram Patras in leading roles.
Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, chairwoman of the selection committee, hailed the nomination.
"Pakistan will finally have a film in contention this year at the Academy Awards and I feel proud that today we are taking a small step towards recognizing our own film makers," the statement quoted Obaid-Chinoy as saying.
In 2012, Obaid-Chinnoy herself became the first Pakistani to claim Hollywood's most coveted gong, winning the Best Documentary Short Oscar for co-directing a documentary about victims of acid attacks.
"Zinda Bhaag is proof of the fact that sheer will, passion and talent can achieve incredible feats, and I would like to congratulate the team behind the film on a compelling and cinematic film," she said.
Zaidi, the film's producer, added: "For the Zinda Bhaag cast and crew that comprised mostly of first-timers to film making, this is a superlative achievement. This will be a great boost for the newly regenerating Pakistani film industry."
Pakistan has previously submitted just two motion pictures for Oscar consideration.
In 1959, "Jago Hua Savera" was submitted by Director A.J. Kardar and in 1963, the film "Ghunghat" was submitted by Director Khawaja Khurshid Anwar. But neither film secured an Oscar nomination.
A record number of 71 films were submitted for Oscar consideration in the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 85th Academy Awards held in 2012.
The number of internationally submitted films for this category is expected to be even greater this year, according to the the Pakistani committee.
Only five films from across the world can make the final nominations.