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Santa Fe Resident Taking Serious Filmmaking Back to Pakistan

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. —  Bollywood is seeing a resurgence these days with films like “Slumdog Millionaire” making a splash on the American scene, but its Pakistani counterpart Lolliwood hasn’t made a marketable movie since Mary Lou Retton won a gold medal.

“Through the 1970s, we were still turning out good movies,” said director Ayesha Khan. Since then, she said, her home country has turned out films so bad, they’re a hobby.


“It’s been 25 years and nobody paid attention to the cinema. It’s just filled with one dialect. You have to see them to believe them. They’re a cult form now. We all watch them and don’t admit it,” she said

Khan, who now lives in Santa Fe, returned to Pakistan after working in real estate and making films in the United States for years. She made “Kashf: The Lifting of The Veil,” which was a selection at December’s Santa Fe Film Festival.

The film will open at the Guild Cinema in Albuquerque on March 9 for a four-day run. On the final two nights of the Guild screening, Khan will talk about the film and the difficulties she had making it in Pakistan.

“I wrote it, I directed it. I even have to act in the damn thing,” she said.

Khan moved to New Mexico to do post-production work. One of the knocks on our local film industry is that there aren’t enough post-pro duction houses available for people to professionally edit and score their films, though that’s changing.

She was working on the film in Pakistan in late 2007 when the rolling blackouts that are expected in Pakistan got so bad, she said, “I was worried that we wouldn’t be able to finish the film.” About every two hours, the power would shut off for 45 minutes. The producer suggested she come to America to wrap up editing, which was taking an eternity in Lahore, Pakistan.

“Just as we would get started, the power would go out again,” she said. “The producer was wondering why it was taking so long.”

David Janson, the producer, found David Aubrey in Santa Fe. Aubrey’s an editor who’s well-known for working on the arthouse hit film “Baraka” and “The Tao of Steve.”

“I loved ‘Baraka,’ it’s my favorite,” Khan said. “Sign me up! I moved here to work with him.”

In 2008 she moved to Santa Fe, where she’s established an office for her production house, Indus Valley Productions.

“Kashf: The Lifting of The Veil,” one of few – if not the only – English-language features to come out of Pakistan in the last 30 years, follows the story of Armaghan, a young actor returning to Pakistan from the United States to become a TV star. Along the way Armaghan has to deal with family, hallucinations and his ancestors’ ancient ties to the Sufi religion.

Getting it made took guts, Khan said, because Pakistan’s film industry is so scattered and disorganized.

“We had to get all the equipment from New York,” she said. “But nobody would insure us when we told them where we were going. They would just laugh.”

Her company had to buy the entire production and equipment, a rare and expensive proposition.

“I don’t have to tell people there’s no infrastructure,” she said.

Khan is now working on a new film, which also will be shot in Pakistan, called “Made in Pakistan: The Most Dangerous Country in The World,” after a Time magazine story.

“If it’s true, how is it affecting them?” she said. “It’s not that everybody is a terrorist. There are a 160 million people living in Pakistan.”


Short local, films

The New Mexico Professional Filmmakers Showcase will screen several short films by seven New Mexico filmmakers.

The conference, on March 6 at the University of New Mexico Continuing Education Building, 1634 University NE, also offers a chance to network with people who are making films. Documentaries, thrillers, comedies and horror films will be shown. Cost is $19. The showcase will be from 6-9 p.m. Make reservations at

Where’s N.M.?

The new “Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen” trailer is out.

The film, which was shot like the first “Transformers” movie in southern New Mexico, shows no traces of the state in the trailer.

Instead, you see the Nile River Valley, Florence, Italy, an aircraft carrier at sea and a city that looks like Los Angeles; basically money shots of explosions, crashing things (presumably robots) and Shia LeBeouf’s doe eyes staring at something just beyond the camera.

The title “Revenge of The Fallen” says more about the plot than the trailer does. I suppose “The Empire Strikes Back” was already taken.

Watch it at