- The censor board said the domestic drama didn't reflect true Pakistani culture, portrays a negative image of Muslims’ and is against the social and cultural values of Pakistan.
Pakistan’s Central Board of Film Censors (CBFC) has banned Pakistani American filmmaker Iram Parveen Bilal’s “I’ll Meet You There” a week ahead of its scheduled theatrical release in the country, Variety reported. The CBFC refused to grant the film censorship because it found the film “unsuitable for public exhibition on the grounds that it ‘does not reflect true Pakistani culture, portrays a negative image of Muslims’ and is against the “social and cultural values of Pakistan,” the report said.
The film is a moving portrayal of an estranged family trying to reconnect with each other. The domestic drama follows three generations of a Pakistani American family living in Chicago, in a largely Pakistani immigrant community.
It tells the story of Majeed (Faran Tahir) a widowed cop, raising a teenage daughter on his own. His daughter, Dua (Nikita Tewani) is an aspiring ballerina and is in line to go to Juilliard. Dua also teaches dance therapy at a senior center run by family friend Shonali aunty (Sheetal Seth), whose tentative romance with her father is on hold. And to complicate matters further – Dua, unbeknownst to her father, is learning Kathak, a dance style her mother used to perform, from Shonali. Used to being a teenager in America, not shackled by the rigorous expectations of her religion, Dua must hide her lifestyle choices from her beloved but judgmental grandfather. Dua, her widowed cop father and her grandfather, who arrives unannounced from Karachi after a 12-year estrangement, spark collisions between the past and present, and faith and freedom, making up the framework of this film.
“A film that was made by Muslims for Muslims and one that has been celebrated by the Muslim community that has watched it thus far; a film that was made to combat islamophobia gets banned in Pakistan citing it as “negative portrayal of Muslims.” Bilal tweeted.
In a statement to Variety, she said the film was made “with blood, sweat and tears by a Muslim, was financed by Muslims and made in the face of a post 9/11 world and a Trump presidency,” with the purpose to “combat Islamophobia and to create a positive portrayal of Muslims. A film already released abroad and celebrated widely by the Muslim Pakistani diaspora and seen as a needed and humanized representation of our people.” She wondered “how could that intention be reframed so oppositely and so negatively.”
The New York Times, in its review, said the “film’s storylines signal a departure from how Muslims and South Asians have typically been depicted in American cinema.” The Times said “Bilal’s film tells a story about being an American Muslim after the Sept. 11 attacks, an experience that can mean a cultural identity clash on multiple fronts.”
The film was selected for SXSW’s narrative feature competition in 2020 before the spread of the coronavirus pandemic forced the festival’s cancellation. Mini-studio Level Forward acquired North American virtual theatrical rights and impact distribution privileges for the film and rolled it out in 2021.
Born in the U.S., Bilal was raised in Nigeria and Pakistan. She made her feature debut with the acclaimed “Josh” that played the international festival circuit in 2013. Her fourth feature as a director, “Wakhri (One of a Kind) was one of 15 films invited to the 2019 Cannes Cinefondation L’Atelier Official Selection. The film is slated to go into production this year. Bilal was also spotlighted as one of eight directors to watch by the Alliance of Women Directors.
Her first TV pilot “Detained’ was highlighted as one of the best-unproduced pilots of TV by WeForShe in 2020 and was optioned by Wayfarer Studios. Most recently, she was hired to write a pilot and break series for two seasons of a hip hop dance drama by the Emmy Award-winning producers of Netflix’s “Delhi Crime.”
A CAPE, Film Independent & Thomas J. Watson fellow, she has won multiple Women in Film awards. An engineer by training, Bilal is an active mentor for women in film and tech, and a member of the Film Fatales and the Alliance of Women directors, advocating for gender parity behind the camera. She initiated the Pakistani Oscar committee and is the founder of Pakistan’s first professional screenwriting lab Qalambaaz.