A harrowing and poignant film about the horrors of child marriage and the status of women in Pakistan opens the 17th annual London Asian Film Festival tonight.
‘Dukhtar’ is the thrilling story of a mother and her ten-year-old daughter who flee their home in rural Pakistan after the youngster is promised in marriage to a local tribal leader.
Mom Allah Rakhi (Samiya Mumtaz) herself was betrothed to a much-older tribesman at the age of fifteen and she is determined that her daughter escapes the same fate, despite the appalling dangers she is bound to face as an unaccompanied woman with a young child in a lawless land.
As her outraged husband and men from her tribe embark on a pursuit that will almost certainly result in her death, the courageous and determined Rakhi flees and eventually hails down a truck driver, Sohail (Mohib Mirza) and lies to him about wanting a lift.
When Sohail learns of the real reason for Rakhi’s flight, he is forced to decide whether he will endanger his own life to deliver mother and daughter to safety in Lahore.
The film is the debut feature of Quetta-born writer and director Afia Nathaniel.
Nathaniel spent nearly a decade cobbling together the financing for the film and endured everything from violence to sexism to bring the story to the big screen.
She spoke to the UKAsian during last year’s London Film Festival about her journey with ‘Dukhtar’.