“No more news, please. No more news.” That’s been my early-morning refrain while checking news websites ever since 9/11. But inevitably, there is news from Pakistan. This past year, very few mornings have gone by without Americans waking up to read “Ten Taliban Members Killed in Pakistan” or “Militants Take Over Swat Valley, Close Girls’ Schools.” There is always news and it is always bad.
A new movie, Slackistan, wants to change that perception of Pakistan. Directed by British-based Hammad Khan, Slackistan is about a bunch of bored rich kids in Islamabad. And that’s it. That’s the plot. But that’s okay because they’re all hot. Oh yeah, and there’s probably an existential crisis or two thrown in for good measure. So basically your average American stoner movie sans the weed. At least that’s the impression I get. Watch the trailer for yourself and tell me if you see anything other than glamorous side-profiles of perturbed-looking young adults.
According to an article in The Guardian by Riazat Butt, that’s just the point.
“It’s a countercultural film, one that rejects the stereotypical western view of Pakistan, as well as one that rejects the prevailing establishment of older cultures and traditions.”
“Islamabad is quite dead but it has a lot of young people. It feels like smalltown America. The kids are living in a bubble. It’s chaotic outside but the two worlds don’t meet.
The Slackistan story – if it can be called that considering the absence of a hard and fast plot – is about the lives of young people in Islamabad. Khan cast locals – Islooites – with no acting experience, who were essentially playing themselves on screen. “Every Islooite is talking or listening to stories of other people. It is a small town and the mentality is that of characters from Gossip Girl. Who was seen with whom, what car they were in and what happened at the last party are typical concerns for the Islooite. This town isn’t big enough to get away with much.”
I have mixed feelings about this film. On one hand, it’s nice to see something that doesn’t take itself too seriously and doesn’t involve random terrorist plots. Seeing random Pakistani kids live their lives is refreshing. On the other hand, it’s rich kids doing nothing. Why should I care? Why should my middle-class relatives in Pakistan, or even my middle-class relatives in America care? The director explains.
“They are the kids of businessmen, politicians or professionals,” explains Khan. “They are the future of Pakistan. They will inherit Islamabad and it is more interesting to look at what they might do with it, rather than look at the poor or the radicalised who have very little real power. The film is about growing up, too. It asks, can we really do this for the rest of our lives?”
So an insight into the inner workings of Pakistan’s high society will give us a paradigm to understanding its future? And radicals have very little real power? Okay, sure.
“This is the anti-Slumdog,” proclaims Aisha [female lead in the film]. “That was a good film but highly overrated. It wasn’t anything new. It didn’t show people a side they didn’t already know. This will be a film people talk about.”
Ah, back to the familiar protests, the whole we’re-not-just-a-third-world-country-with-poor-people game. Either way, ‘Slackistani’ is a great word. I’m totally including it in my vocabulary from now on. Just call me Slackistani-American from now one. Want to learn more? Join the Facebook group for Slakistan-related news.