Pakistani American filmmaker Tanya Panjwani wins International film award


HOUSTON: Pakistani American film maker Tanya Panjwani won the highest International film award at the Global Community Film Festival held in Toronto, Canada. The festival lasted six days, which then culminated with an awards show to honor the films and artwork selected to be recognized by a distinguished jury.

Panjwani’s documentary was one of the awardees, and her film “Marvi: the Mystic Muse,” is based on the life story of Pakistani Sufi singer Sanam Marvi. More than one hundred films were submitted to this festival, out of which 25 of them were short listed for screening. Only two films were selected for the prestigious MADA, the “Making a Difference Award.” A native of Houston, Texas, American Pakistani but living in Toronto, Canada, Panjwani was presented this award by a former Oscar winner in an intimate ceremony.

Tanya’s one-hour film focused on Sufism in Sindh and Punjab, including footage at various shrines, including those of Baba Bulleh Shah, Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, Sachal Sarmast, Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai. Through Sufi poetry and music, the universal message of love and peace was an underlying theme of this documentary. In the words of an audience member, this was evoked effectively through various threads:

“the dexterous presentation of a host of intertwining sub-narratives was very effective: the story of Sanam the girl with a passion for singing, her nurturing relationship with her father and her family, the richness of Sufi culture and music in Sindh and Pakistan, the raw unplugged captivating talent of a female Sufi singer in Pakistan, Sanam’s humility, modest beginnings and yet her dogged ambition, the real spectre of nihilism that ominously looms over the precious flower of Sufi culture and music with Sanam as one of its valiant soldiers, the matter-of-fact-ness of the richness of Pakistani culture, contemporary challenges, without being preachy about challenging stereotypes.”

Furthermore, the film aims to highlight the contextual history of the Sindh and Punjab regions in an attempt to draw attention to the long standing traditions that still continue today.

Talking to our correspondent, Tanya said that it is a great honor for her as this is her first independent production to win an award. She stated that she was compelled to tell Sanam Marvi’s story attending her live performance in Canada two years ago. Furthermore, she affirms that this film is important for people as it is an opportunity to witness and understand the message of peace and oneness of all faiths that has been delivered through Sufism for centuries. Furthermore, she expresses that she would love to highlight the lives of more artists that are keeping mystic traditions alive through music, which she believes is a great effort to challenge prevailing forms of extremism in society.