‘Zindagi Tamasha’ Chosen As Pakistan’s Official Oscar Entry Despite Eligibility Confusion

The year 2020 has been a tumultuous affair for the whole world and the Pakistani film industry is no exception to it. A year that was supposed to be a “make or break” for the local cinema, unfortunately, witnessed everything going upside down courtesy of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among the coveted films originally planned to be gracing our local cinema screens, Sarmad Khoosat’s Zindagi Tamasha was supposed to be one of the firsts to hit the theatres. The film, however, met a controversial and unfortunate fate soon after its theatrical trailer was released when a section of hardliners objected to the questions the film allegedly raised. While the release of the film still hangs in limbo, it seems all isn’t dark for team Zindagi Tamasha.

Pakistan’s Official Oscar Entry

Earlier this week the Pakistani Academy Selection Committee selected Zindagi Tamasha, Sarmad Khoosat’s second silver screen directorial, as Pakistan’s official entry for Oscar’s consideration in the ‘International Feature Film Award’ category for the 93rd Academy Awards. The committee for 2020 was chaired by Academy and Emmy award winner Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and had Faisal Kapadia, Asad-ul-Haq, Hamza Bangash, Syed Muhammad Ahmed, Mehwish Hayat, Hasan Shehreyar Yasin, Asim Abbasi, Arshad Mahmud, and Jamal Shah as its members.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will choose the final nominees for all award categories including International Feature Film in February 2021. The complete and final list of Oscar nominees will be announced on 15th March 2021, with the presentation show for the 93rd Academy Awards scheduled to take place on 25th April 2021.

Concerns About The Film’s Release

Starring relatively unknown faces like Arif Hassan, Eman Suleman, Ali Qureshi alongside TV and film artist Samiya Mumtaz, Zindagi Tamasha is co-produced by Sarmad Khoosat, along with Kanwal Khoosat and penned by Nirmal Bano.

The makers describe the film as an intimate portrait of a family and scorching political commentary. It was initially expected to be a brave and timely film as it is shot with the backdrop of the city of Lahore during the celebrations of the holy month of Rabi ul Awal. However, a protest against the film’s release by hardliners brought the film unnecessary attention which delayed its release. The film was later cleared by all censor boards without any major cuts but it still couldn’t see the light of the day due to the inevitable security concerns. The COVID-19 pandemic further deteriorated its release prospects and the film is yet to see the light of the day.

Eligibility Confusion

This situation revolving around the film having had no theatrical release, wide or limited, also raises questions about the film’s eligibility to be nominated for the Oscars as far as the rules of Academy Awards are concerned. One of the rules for the films competing in the International Feature Film category is that the film must be first released in the country submitting the film during the eligibility period defined by the rules of the Academy, and must have been exhibited for at least seven consecutive days in a commercial movie theater.

Another disqualifying factor is a film’s television or internet transmission before its theatrical release. The Academy has in the past rejected the Dutch film Bluebird (2004) on the above premise. This rule is the reason why a film like The Irishman (2019) first had a limited theatrical run in cinemas before it was made available for viewing on Netflix.

Having said that, it is for sure that the local Oscar selection committee must have considered these rules before opting for Zindagi Tamasha as the final contender chosen to represent Pakistan this year. There is no doubt about the brilliance of a director like Sarmad Khoosat and Zindagi Tamasha could be no exception to the gems he has produced earlier. While the audience in Pakistan still wait for the day when they can watch the movie for themselves, here is hoping that the film manages to be shortlisted by the Academy and makes Pakistan proud at the most prestigious film awards in the world.


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