Cinema South Asia begins in Pakistan with Bol (Speak Up), the second film by Shoaib Mansoor, who boldly focuses on the repression of women in the Muslim world.
The film tells the story of Zainub Sayyed (Humaima Malik), a young woman about to be hanged for her father’s murder. Her final wish is to tell her story to the media who want to witness the hanging.
The tale unfolds in a series of flashbacks, as Zainub’s large family is forced to leave Delhi during the Partition and make Lahore their home. Times are hard, but Zainub’s father Hakim (Manzar Sehbai) does not believe women should work and so – in a family of seven daughters – is therefore the sole bread-winner. Hakim longs for a son who could, eventually, bring money into the family. But to Hakim’s horror, his eighth child is an intersex baby. He cannot bear the shame he feels and hides the child away from view. But as time passes things don’t get any easier for the family and Hakim’s zealotry eventually culminates in the act for which Zainub faces the gallows.
Following Bol is With You, Without You, which is the story of lovers from opposite sides of the Sri Lanka’s civil war who are forced to confront a terrible past now the conflict is over.
Adopted from Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novella A Gentle Creature (aka The Meek One), With You, Without You has been likened to The English Patient with its deft exploration of the emotional fall-out of trauma on the lives of ordinary people.
With You, Without You‘s Selvi (Anjali Patil) is a beautiful but quiet Tamil refugee who catches the eye of middle-aged Buddhist pawnbroker Sarathsiri (Shyam Fernando), who is immediately captivated.
The pawnbroker discovers she is about to be wed for money to a very old man and throws caution to the wind and offers to marry her instead. Selvi slowly falls in love with her saviour, though neither of them ever talk about their past; until an old army friend of the pawnbroker turns up, and a terrible secret emerges …