London Short Film Festival: Generation Gap
“Mariam is determined to escape her conservative Pakistani family by pursuing an online romance in secret, but when her mother begins arranging Mariam’s marriage to her cousin, she refuses and her romance takes a dark twist, revealing the extremes that Mariam is willing to go to keep her relationship alive.”
When a film takes a social issue and magnifies its crippling effects, it does a duty to its audience that forms a taboo into raw existence. Pakistani-Canadian filmmaker Hamza Bangash’s narrative short Dia does just that. It confines an often disregarded issue in Pakistani society and expands on it via our character’s psyche and best kept secret. Mariam Nadeem (Nida Khan) is a big sister and is the only daughter to her divorced mother. She’s busy studying for final exams, something she tenaciously uses to rebuke her mother’s attempts to wed her off. As she pushes against this, Mariam also has an affection and correspondence with Asad, her private love interest.
As her mother (Bakhtawar Mazhar) pushes the arranged engagement, Mariam is faced with a disapproval that affects her mental health. It’s when the film takes a harrowing little twist of corners that we’re compelled to take a closer look into Mariam’s state of thoughts. While we see her hold onto this very secret relationship with a boyfriend we only see in snapshots and whose voice nearly escapes us into the blank facetime screens, we see her destruction first hand.
As we follow the film through flashbacks of snapchat-filtered videos with Asad, the boy she’s corresponding with on the daily, there’s a striking void in what feels to be her touch with reality. This, coupled with a growing isolation and a conscious decline, feed endlessly to what comes of it all. In many countries mental health is often brushed under the rug or deemed a sign of weakness. In some conservatively traditional households you’re trained to think of your vulnerabilities as invalid and insignificant. Mariam’s mother embodies such a system of thought, discussing marriage arrangements at the table, requesting a spiritual leader bless her daughter’s mind, and enforcing the ideology that perpetually breaks down her identity and healthy. Bangash’s film is affecting on the social front and lasting on the mind, taking a common struggle and revealing its vulnerable humanity for a cause.