Review: In Flames Catches Fire

by Imtiaz Popat

Pakistani-Canadian filmmaker Zarrar Kahn’s feature debut In Flames about how women are treated in patriarchal culture is getting critical reviews globally.

The film’s protagonist is a woman in her mid-20s  named Mariam (Ramesha Nawal). Mariam lives with her widowed mother, Fariha (Bakhtawar Mazhar), and her adolescent brother, Bilal (Jibran Khan), in a small apartment in Karachi.

The death of Fariha’s father, who had been providing for them financially creates financial uncertainty for Fariha, who is a schoolteacher, and for Mariam, who is studying to be a doctor. It also opens the door for exploitation by her Uncle Nasir (Adnan Shah), who starts shows up with assurances of familial care and protection. He promises to take care of Fariha’s financial dept in return for Fariha’s inheritance. But Mariam is suspicious and protective of her mother, warning her mother about Uncle Nasir’s intentions about about signing anything away.

Mariam also becomes involves with Asad (Omar Javaid) who has recently returned to Pakistan from living in Canada, who attention gives her sense of comfort. But that comfort turns to tragedy and grief for Mariam. But her mother who has dealt with multiple loss and tragedy comes to her daughter rescue and gives are the understanding of a woman who has struggled through gender oppression in a society that disempowers women.

Kahn’s creative approach to story telling using local musician for the soundtrack and an award-winning women director of photography as well the editing and sound design adds texture and layers to the film about gender oppression.