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1978 review: The struggle to stay true to oneself amidst an oppressive regime

Release Date: 2020 / 17min

Cinestaan Rating

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Sukhpreet Kahlon

The short film takes a page out of Pakistani history to examine ways in which repressive governments force people to adapt or die.

With his bell-bottom trousers, flamboyant shorts, curly long hair and sunglasses, Lenny is a rock star. A Christian in Pakistan, his occupation and way of life is threatened when the government decides to clamp down on nightclubs, cinemas and the consumption and sale of liquor in the move towards Islamification of the country. As his agent conjures up a new avatar for him to navigate the political circumstances, Lenny must decide what he is willing to sacrifice.

Directed by Hamza Bangash, 1978 revisits history to examine a turning point in Pakistan, when General Zia-ul-Haq seized power from Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in a coup in 1977 and passed a series of orders hastening the Islamization of Pakistan. The film examines the effects of this on the minority communities that were suddenly faced with the choice to adapt or die.

The short film explores the changing situation through the story of Lenny and his brother, who share a beautiful relationship. For the younger brother, Lenny looks like Mick Jagger and is a star, while Lenny gets coaxed into going to church for the sake of his sibling. Through well-placed flashbacks, we get glimpses of the changing nation and the attitude towards minorities, the bullying and coercion being like a playbook for all repressive regimes.

Based on Norman D'Souza, a rock musician from the 1960s, the film recreates the clubbing scene in Karachi at the time. However, for a film featuring a rock musician, the music is few and far between, and one wishes to get a better glimpse into the vibrant nightlife. Visually, it allows for spaces for the character’s dilemma to come through, enabling us to see that in his own way, Lenny is struggling with the choices at hand.

Even though it is set five decades ago, politically, the short film deeply resonates with contemporary times, almost like a beacon; the anti-establishment opening scene itself giving the finger to oppressive regimes and everything that they stand for.

1978 is being screened at the Palm Springs International ShortFest, which is being held from 22-28 June.


Related topics

Palm Springs Short Festival

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