Early in Dukhtar, a Pakistani drama screening at this year’s Chicago South Asian Film Festival, writer-director Afia Nathaniel presents a striking image of a woman preparing dinner for her husband in their small, mountainside home. A post in the middle of the home’s single room divides the wide-screen frame in half; the wife sits on the left side in darkness while the husband sits on the right side in light. Neither looks at the other—until the wife crosses the frame, you might think that the home has two rooms. This is a clever way of illustrating the division between these two characters, as well as divisions between men and women in traditional Pakistani society. The moment isn’t subtle, but like much in Dukhtar it gains from a certain elemental power. With its stark imagery and characterizations, the film often feels like a folktale, even though it takes place in the present and addresses ongoing social concerns. Continue reading >>