Last July when Nasheed Qamar Faruqi started a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for her short film Bubbles, she didn’t imagine it would be screened at the 68th Cannes Film Festival, or even get made. “I got support from places like Austin, Lahore, we also have amazingly generous friends and backers from India, and wonderfully enough my favourite writer and friend, Vikram Seth,” she says. The London-based film-maker was always big on cinema. At 16, she raised funds for her first short film by selling pancakes at school. After graduating from Oxford University with a degree in English, she worked with Merchant Ivory Productions, where she cut her teeth reading scripts and producing films with James Ivory. Bubbles is her first independent film since she did her MFA from Columbia University, and will be screened in the Short Film Corner at Cannes.
During the film’s 14-minute run, the British-Pakistani director skilfully creates an isolated, stifling world of a young girl (Bubbles), who lives in London with her crotchety grandfather and uncle, who can’t stand each other. Also trapped between their shouting matches is her grandmother (Shabana Azmi) who tries her best to protect Bubbles. “Knowing that 275 million children witness an act of domestic violence around the world moved me to make this movie,” she says.
While the English-Urdu film was never meant to be a vehicle to preach a social message, it does highlight the ugly side of abuse from a child’s perspective. The film is a layered story with subtle suggestions that build a back story, like the costumes for the grandmother and granddaughter were deliberately created from the same fabric. “It creates a visual that [suggests] they are close to each other, and live in one universe, away from the men in their family.” Then there’s a reference to Bobby, with the song ‘Hum Tum Ek Kamare Me Bandh Ho’; the song plays repeatedly on a TV screen in the background. If you consider the literal translation, ‘Imagine what it would be like if no one could enter or leave this room’ it creates a haunting, tense atmosphere.
While Qamar Faruqi has plans to take it across festivals, she’s also started working on her next project. This time it’s a feature-length film adapted from Shakespeare’s Measure For Measure . “We’re still in the scripting stage, but I hope to meet many more collaborators at Cannes to pave the way for future projects.”